(Trying to avoid any more pictures of shots going into arms. My husband says he’s tired of pictures of shots going into arms).
So, today I joined the ranks of the partially vaccinated. One shot of Moderna in the arm. (No side effects yet except a slight soreness in the arm which might be psychosomatic as I always get a sore arm from vaccines so my brain kind of expects it).
I walked a bit over three miles to a community vaccination clinic because we don’t own a car and it was quicker than trying to find a closer appointment. It’s a beautiful day and I’m fit. This isn’t me saying I went hugely out of the way. But I was willing to walk three miles to get vaccinated a little sooner.
Unfortunately, not everyone in the country is willing to do that.
In fact, we have the stubborn group that don’t want to get vaccinated at all.
Who Is Most Hesitant About the Vaccine?
First of all, let’s get something out of the way.
It’s not Black people.
Black people are being vaccinated at a lower rate, and some Black people are certainly hesitant to take an experimental vaccine, given the, well, associated history.
But unfortunately, people are grouping in with ‘I don’t want the vaccine’ those who are actually having problems getting it.
And that is, disproportionately, Black and Hispanic people. In the case of Hispanic people, they may be afraid of questions about their immigration status (some vaccine sites have emphasized that they will not be requiring proof of residency).
Because of income inequality, these people are also less likely to have easy access to a vaccination clinic. For me, the six mile walk was a pleasant break from being stuck in my apartment.
Not everyone can walk six miles and enjoy it.
The group of people the most genuinely hesitant about the vaccine, the most likely to say they don’t want it?
Rural white people.
Now, rural people are hit by some of the same issues. The J&J single shot vaccine is likely to be taken off pause this week and will make a difference, as long as people are willing to take it. If somebody has to drive two hours to get vaccinated, they’re much more likely to do it once.
In many states, too, there is a direct correlation between “Number of people who don’t want to get vaccinated” and “Number of people who voted for Trump.” Heavily Republican counties have higher rates of hesitancy.
Another group of hesitant people are pregnant women, some of whom are waiting until after they give birth to get the shot. The shots were not tested in pregnant women, but pregnant healthcare workers have been vaccinated and so far not only do they seem safe, but some protection is being passed on to the baby.
This doesn’t mean vaccine hesitancy doesn’t show up all over the place. Most of us have at least one friend who doesn’t want to get vaccinated.
Are the Numbers Moving in the Right Direction?
Overall, yes. Vaccine hesitancy is dropping over time. This is no doubt because as more and more people get the shot and are fine, those who are hesitant because they, for example, don’t trust the mRNA technology are starting to step forward.
So are the people who, for example, already had COVID and were letting people without antibodies go first.
However, we still have enough people hesitant to raise concerns about, well, whether we’re going to be able to return to normal this year.
In some counties, one in five adults don’t want to get vaccinated, and Republican politicians aren’t helping with their personal choice rhetoric.
So, What Can We Do?
And by “we” I mean ordinary people who aren’t politicians, faith leaders, etc.
The biggest thing any individual can do to combat vaccine hesitancy in others is to loudly declare everywhere that you got vaccinated! Again, the more people a hesitant person sees get vaccinated without problems, the more likely the are to get the shot themselves.
If you get side effects, talk about how they’re normal, expected, etc. (The vast majority of people aren’t getting serious side effects, although I have multiple friends who ended up spending the day after shot two sleeping.
Some other things you can do:
- Counter vaccine misinformation when you come across it. If somebody is saying crap like “The vaccines weren’t tested in the U.S.” (Which seriously got said in my presence), debunk it.
- If you are fully vaccinated and have a car, and your friends don’t, offer to take them to vaccination sites. Again, not everyone can walk six miles like I did.
- If you are socializing with vaccinated folks, talk about it, and make a point of only inviting people who are vaccinated. Sure, it’s a little mean, but if somebody is on the fence.
Be ready to counter the following myths:
- The vaccine reduces fertility. No, no it doesn’t. Absolutely no evidence of that.
- The vaccine was authorized without proper testing. Yes, we cut corners…red tape corners. The vaccine trials were prioritized over other trials, for example.
- The vaccine can give you COVID-19. Absolutely none of the authorized vaccines contains the COVID-19 virus. The vaccine can give you very mild COVID-like symptoms for a short period of time because of the reaction of your immune system. It can’t give you COVID-19.
- There are absolutely no chips in the vaccine, with or without 5G reception. (Sadly, it won’t give you superpowers either. At least, they haven’t kicked in yet for me).
- People who have already had COVID should still get the vaccine, but not until 90 days after diagnosis. Protection from having COVID-19 is slightly lower than the vaccine and it’s likely that the combination of both will be better and last longer.
- mRNA vaccines don’t and can’t affect your DNA. They subvert existing biological mechanisms and our cells have protective systems to make sure that doesn’t happen.
- mRNA vaccines do not contain egg or egg proteins. So if you can’t get the flu shot because you’re allergic to eggs… (Hopefully we’ll also have an mRNA flu shot soon which will help the egg problem).
(It is true that people who have had severe allergic reactions to other vaccines should talk to their doctor before being vaccinated. However, severe allergic reactions can happen with any vaccine and are not unique to these. The reason providers are being strict with the 15 minute observation period is because these vaccines are new and thus might cause allergic reactions in people who have not previously had an allergic reaction to a vaccine).
The best person to convince a hesitant person to get vaccinated is a family member or friend.