COVID-19: A Discussion of its Disproportionate Impacts and the Vaccine

Illustrated by Haley Pak

Boredom.  Zoom.  Monotony. Loneliness. The effects of COVID-19 are far-reaching, ranging from a multitude of family struggles to mental health issues. As this virus has shown, certain subsets of the population are disproportionately affected by COVID-19, including minority populations who face a host of racial injustices daily as well as individuals who were previously afflicted with depression, obesity and other anxiety issues.  This virus has also thoroughly stunted the social and mental development of elementary and middle school children, as they are kept in their homes and forced to stare at a computer screen all day.  However, embedded in what seems like a ruckus, is a bright light of assurance — the COVID-19 vaccine. 

COVID-19, as we have seen throughout these past horrendous and dreadful twelve months, has not impacted everyone equally.  The CDC defines COVID-19 as “a new disease, caused by a novel (or new) coronavirus that has not previously been seen in humans” [3]. Naturally, this definition suggests that this illness is purely biological, while ignoring the socioeconomic effects of the virus.  This virus has further disproportionately impacted certain communities while making the prosperous more prosperous.  According to a study conducted by the National Institute of Health (NIH), infection and death rates were higher amongst minority populations compared to white populations [2].  This can also be thoroughly attributed to the five social determinants of health, as minority populations are often less likely to receive proper health care, live in good quality and affordable housing and receive proper health education, according to the CDC [2].  

Apart from the social inequalities exacerbated by COVID-19, this virus has worsened the mental health of individuals, especially those who are young (18-39 years old) and middle-aged adults (40-59 years old) [6].  This statistic is hardly surprising in individuals aged 18 to 25, considering many of us are still learning about ourselves on a deeper level — figuring out our future professions, transitioning from home to college life, etc.  In fact, according to an article released by the University of California, Berkeley, “the elevated rates of stress, anxiety, and depression for young people could have been partially due to the additional stress they were experiencing as they tried to adapt to online education” [1]. 

COVID-19 also disproportionately impacts individuals who are considered obese, as do many other viruses amongst a plethora of societal issues.  A 2019 study conducted by the CDC showed that obesity in adults is steadily increasing throughout the United States — a figure that is subject to keep rising as mental stress causes individuals to sleep less and constant quarantine forces many to rely consistently on unhealthy lifestyles [12].  As a result, COVID-19 cases have undoubtedly risen to even greater heights — and increased obesity levels haven’t helped either.  In fact, the CDC found that “more than 900,000 adult COVID-19 hospitalizations occurred in the United States between the beginning of the pandemic and November 18, 2020. Models estimate that 271,800 (30.2%) of these hospitalizations were attributed to obesity” [7].  Through this figure, it is clear that obesity has played a role in an individual’s susceptibility to COVID-19.  However, we must consider the factors that increase obesity rates. The NIH states that obesity is not primarily caused by an individual’s lack 

of restraint, but rather, by issues relating to boredom and stress, among other factors like daily physical exertion [7].  

Fortunately, amongst all this negativity is a ray of hope — the COVID-19 vaccine.   The COVID-19 vaccine, developed by pharmaceutical companies like Pfizer and Moderna, aims to turn our lives upside down and bring back “normalcy.”  Therefore, it is fairly surprising that this vaccine has been met with a mixed array of views — from anti-vaxxers who insist that this vaccine has not been thoroughly tested.  Those who have received the vaccine reported “some soreness at the injection site” [5].  Dr. Monique Tello, who received the COVID-19 vaccine early 2021 stated that her experience with the vaccine included a “low-grade fever, fatigue, headache, body aches, [and] sore arm,” but overall it was “incredibly positive and reassuring” [9].  Dr. Tello went on to write, “One dose, three solid weeks of high-risk exposure, no infection” [9].  The COVID-19 vaccine distribution has started to make its way into more  underserved populations, as large corporations like Target donated up to five million dollars towards local and nonprofit organizations who focus on serving rural populations [8].  

This pandemic will forever be etched in history — an event that is likely to occur once in a blue moon.  From communities struggling to adjust to life in the age of a pandemic to the mental health of adolescents and teenagers significantly worsening, it has been incredibly tough to stay strong.  Fortunately, we  know that researchers in the scientific field are working tirelessly to drive our society back to normalcy. As the vaccine is currently being distributed intensively throughout the nation, we can begin to see the light at the end of the tunnel. 

Edited by: Lily Luu
Illustrated by: Haley Pak

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