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Let’s stop politicizing science for votes | Data Driven

A couple weeks ago, Gov. Ron DeSantis came out with new COVID-19 vaccine guidelines for Florida residents: Anyone under 65 shouldn’t get the new booster. DeSantis’ suggestion is a striking contrast to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s guidelines that recommended everyone over six months old should get the booster. 

Mandile Mpofu | Senior Graphic Artist

DeSantis’ timing is almost too convenient. Because of the ongoing Republican debates, now is a critical time for his campaign. States’s rights are an important part of our democracy, but given how drastically DeSantis’ guidelines contradict the CDC’s, it all starts to feel like a political power play rather than an informed policy. 

DeSantis is right to recommend the vaccine for older people. According to Yale Medicine, those over 65 are at high risk for COVID-19 and make up the majority of COVID-related deaths. But you’re not immune up until midnight on your 65th birthday, your immune response gradually declines as you age. Those 50 years or older are still at extreme risk for hospitalization or even death. Additionally, according to the CDC, anyone who is immunocompromised or has a preexisting health condition like diabetes is vulnerable to COVID-related complications, regardless of age. 

Even young, healthy people can reap the benefits of the vaccine, according to Yale Medicine. Vaccinations help protect you from the virus, and if you do happen to catch it, they lessen the severity of the illness. Plus, periodically getting boosters can help prevent infections from new strains of viruses — the most recent COVID-19 booster helps fight the EG.5 and BA.2.86 strains.

According to the CDC, if we all follow their advice and get the new vaccine, we can avoid 400,000 hospitalizations and 40,000 deaths. That’s just for two years, how many countless lives could be saved if we keep going? 

When DeSantis advised people under 65 not to get the vaccine, he made it seem like COVID-19 is a problem for older generations and everyone else is safe from getting it. But, even his own state proves that young people still need to be wary of the virus. In the week of Sept. 22, Florida recorded 9,540 cases, and about 63% of those cases were people under 65. 

That’s a lot of people who could end up with some serious health repercussions if they aren’t up to date on their vaccines. 

In America, we’re lucky enough that we have the right to choose whether or not to get the new COVID-19 vaccine, but I believe that we should also have the right to receive accurate information and data-backed guidelines from our national leaders. If the scientific community agrees on potentially life-saving facts, we should get that undiluted information from our government officials and choose what we want to do based on that.

Science has become entangled with politics, and the pandemic only exacerbated the issue. Views on the COVID-19 vaccine tend to fall around party lines. Vaccinations aside, I just want a return to information transparency and a decrease in the politicized mistrust and misinformation around science. 

Looking ahead to the 2024 election, I’m interested to see how public health appears in debates and campaigns. COVID-19 deaths have declined since the peak of the pandemic, so I’m curious if Republican candidates embrace anti-vaccination and anti-science stances to gain favor with voters — if voters still even care about COVID-19.

Because of former President Donald Trump’s involvement in Operation Warp Speed to deliver vaccines, perhaps this is all an elaborate ploy by DeSantis to win over anti-vaccination Trump supporters. It’s a shame, however, that this potential political move could come at the cost of thousands of lives. 

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