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Covid-19 vaccine: how the recent “good news” is dividing people

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Hollie Richardson
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A vaccine for coronavirus

Does the Covid-19 vaccine news seem too good to be true? Are you not quite ready to trust that Donald Trump is leaving the White House? Here’s why people are reacting differently to the recent “good news”.

Last night, prime minister Boris Johnson gave a press conference more gripping than the “Indefinitely” one that takes place at the end of Notting Hill. Over the last eight months, we’ve come to expect bad news in these briefings: lockdown announcements, the number of rising cases and the collapse of our economy. But, for the first time in the entirety pandemic, Johnson shared a glimmer of hope: the first “milestone” Covid-19 vaccine.

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Pfizer and BioNTech have developed the first effective coronavirus vaccine, which can prevent more than 90% of people from getting the virus, according to a preliminary analysis. It is the first vaccine trial to share findings in the final stages of testing, known as a phase three trial, and the pharmaceutical companies predict they will have enough safety data by the third week of November to take their vaccine to regulators.

Deputy chief medical officer, Jonathan Van-Tam said at the press conference that he’s “hopeful” the first vaccine could be here by Christmas and there would be a “much better horizon” by spring. But Johnson was persistent in reminding us that it’s still “very, very early days” and warned people not to “rely on this news as a solution”. 

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This is the “good news” we’ve all been waiting for, right? “Life will go back to normal when there’s a vaccine,” suddenly feels like an imminent reality, doesn’t it? Personally, I felt excited butterflies in my tummy when I heard the vaccine news. I was giddy with optimism. My mind flashed to a springtime without lockdown restrictions. 

But, after speaking with others and seeing through my blind buoyancy, I’m now starting to doubt everything all over again. Am I just clinging onto any slither of good news? Do I trust this gaslighting government? Is this a game in building international hope? My butterflies are now fluttering with anxiety instead of excitement.

It’s a bit like the complicated feelings I had over the weekend’s announcement that Joe Biden had won the US election. I was delighted that Trump was out, but I’m anticipating something will go wrong between now and when Biden is inaugurated on 20 January. And, is Biden actually the best candidate for the job? 

Ultimately: is this all just too good to be true?

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After speaking with Stylist’s digital team this morning, it’s clear no one really trusts good news anymore, no matter how desperate we are for it.

Hanna Ibraheem, senior beauty writer:

“I almost cried at the news of the vaccine as I’m so desperate for my partner, who lives and works abroad, to finally come home now. I saw somebody tweet about how it’s stupid to get your hopes up and that we should be realistic but I was sort of like… just let us have this moment thanks.

“With Biden, I saw somebody post something about how we’re back to ‘normal racism’ now and I was like, ‘Wow, the bar is so low isn’t it?”

Megan Murray, senior digital writer:

“I appreciate that the last week has been eventful and that those events are subjectively positive. But do I feel in any way better about our situation? No, not really. If anything I feel braced to be let down. 

“Trump leaving the White House is obviously brilliant, but can we really trust Biden? I would love to believe that everything he says about creating a fair America and being a president for everyone is true but the tally of women who have, at best, said they felt as though his behaviour towards them has made them uncomfortable, and at worst, report being sexually assaulted by him means I don’t see how this is really, truly a thing to celebrate.”

“We’re also now being fed the news that a vaccine is on its way but, although I am NO scientist, I just cannot see this being an instant problem-fixer. What if there’s something wrong with the vaccine or there are side effects – surely it’s too early to know? How will we get the resources to roll it out to every person in the UK? What if the virus just mutates and the vaccine loses effectiveness? 

“I’d rather be emotionally prepared for a long, bumpy ride than thinking everything will be OK and back to normal by spring.”

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Chloe Gray, fitness writer:

“With EVERYTHING I’ve been like ‘Oooooo, eek, exciting!’ but then kind of swallowed the happiness because I don’t want to get too excited and be let down. I feel like usually everyone hides sadness and tears but I’m kind of doing the opposite right now. Like, I don’t want to show too much joy about the vaccine or election results JUST IN CASE. So I’m kind of suppressing it to limit the damage.”

Kayleigh, digital editor-at-large:

“I’ve been fully fixated on Kamala Harris’ history-making win and the rescue dogs going into the White House, to be honest, which makes me very happy. The vaccine, though? Well, it’s a start, I suppose. But 90% is not a vaccine, so I have chosen to ignore it for now.”

Deputy chief medical officer for England, Jonathan Van-Tam, prime minister, Boris Johnson and British Army brigadier, Joe Fossey at the press conference.

Chloe Gray, fitness writer:

“With EVERYTHING I’ve been like ‘Oooooo, eek, exciting!’ but then kind of swallowed the happiness because I don’t want to get too excited and be let down. I feel like usually everyone hides sadness and tears but I’m kind of doing the opposite right now. Like, I don’t want to show too much joy about the vaccine or election results JUST IN CASE. So I’m kind of suppressing it to limit the damage.”

Kayleigh, digital editor-at-large:

“I’ve been fully fixated on Kamala Harris’ history-making win and the rescue dogs going into the White House, to be honest, which makes me very happy. The vaccine, though? Well, it’s a start, I suppose. But 90% is not a vaccine, so I have chosen to ignore it for now.”

“Even one of my closest friends found out she’s been offered a new job in these awful, turbulent times after months of no work, but my congratulations was quickly followed by an internal panic about whether she’d actually get the contract, will be securely employed through Christmas or supported should this pandemic take another turn for the worst. 

“It’s depressing as hell because this isn’t my usual disposition, but I’ve lost a lot of trust in good news even though it’s quite literally the only thing I feel able to consume right now.”

Katy Harrington, acting commissioning editor:

“Look, I’m as excited about what a vaccine could mean as everyone else. My family live in another country so if it means I can travel to see them without two weeks of self-isolation on each end then great, but I do in my heart of heart find it hard to cheer on big pharma who will make billions out of this. Pfizer’s practises in countries like Nigeria show how recklessly these huge powerful industries work, and there’s not much to like about it.

“Sorry to be a downer.”

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We’re still rapidly riding the rollercoaster of emotions that come with a pandemic, and it’s no wonder this can sometimes leave us feeling confused about what we really feel. But the most important thing for people to do at this time is to make sure you’re looking after your mental health, through the good news and bad news.

If your mental health worsens in lockdown or begins to interrupt your day-to-day functioning, it’s important to seek help from a GP or qualified mental health professional.

If you, or someone you know, is struggling with their mental health, you can find support and resources on the mental health charity Mind’s website and NHS Every Mind Matters or access the NHS’ list of mental health helplines and organisations.

For confidential support, you can also call the Samaritans in the UK on 116 123 or email jo@samaritans.org.

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