There is no way around it – this has been a tough year. Painful but necessary social distance, economic hardship, and – of course – unimaginable loss of American lives. It has also been a year of unmistakable American spirit. This spirit of ingenuity and perseverance is highly evident in the impressive push for a COVID-19 vaccine. The first coronavirus vaccine was recently authorized for use in the United States by the Food and Drug Administration, and distribution efforts began immediately. This means that a safe COVID vaccine was developed, tested, manufactured, and authorized five times faster than any vaccine in history.
Essentially, our government bet on American ingenuity, and it paid off. The effort to get this vaccine authorized and distributed is a remarkable example of what can be done when we work together toward a single, life-saving goal.
All of the experts, scientists, soldiers, trial volunteers, and public servants who worked on this effort deserve the highest praise. I am proud of them and all they accomplished for our country. There is no doubt that their efforts will save American lives, and I don’t think I am alone in looking forward to the day that our lives settle back into their normal patterns.
Developing a COVID-19 vaccine with impressive speed has produced one unfortunate side-effect: skepticism. Was this process fast? Yes. But was it rushed? No. This was an around-the-clock effort, and methods to speed and streamline the process have not jeopardized safety. This vaccine has gone through the same important steps and review process as any other. To ensure the ability to start distribution as soon as a vaccine was authorized, we started manufacturing them before we even knew if they would be viable.
The start of vaccinations for our health care workers marks the beginning of what will hopefully be a decisive victory in our COVID battle. We owe that to the hard work and persistence of medical researchers. But we owe it also to the vaccine trial volunteers, who enabled researchers to complete the process of developing a safe and effective vaccine. It’s no exaggeration to say that the bravery of vaccine volunteers could end up saving hundreds of thousands or even millions of lives. A lot of courageous people stepped forward when we needed them, and we would not have a COVID vaccine today without their willingness to help. I doubt we’ll ever know most of the volunteers’ names, but they are heroes of this battle just the same.
When it’s my turn in line, I will get the COVID vaccine. I will get it for my own health and for the health of my family, friends, and the many great South Dakotans with whom I work. As I said, this year has been tough. But times of challenge also present times of incredible achievement – these vaccines certainly represent that.