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Feb-24-2021 00:29printcomments

To Vaccinate, or not to Vaccinate, Should Not be the Question

If about one-third of the population persist in refusing to be vaccinated then herd immunity will be difficult to be reached and the goal of ending the pandemic may be difficult to achieve.

President Biden
President Joe Biden gets vaccinated.
Image: Delaware State News

(SAN FRANCISCO, Calif.) - On February 11, my wife and I got our first dose of the coronavirus Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine; we get our second dose on March 3.

We are relieved to get some protection from the virus even though we will continue to wear masks when we leave the house, observe social distancing, avoid crowds, and generally stay at home most of the time.

According to a recent The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research poll, about 1 in 3 Americans say they definitely or probably will not get the coronavirus vaccine, while 67% plan to get vaccinated or have already done so, 15% are certain they won’t and 17% say probably not.

Many are worried about the vaccine’s safety and effectiveness even though the vaccinations so far have encountered few side effects. The resistance was found to run higher among younger people, people without college degrees, Black Americans, and Republicans.

The virus is changing quickly, and it may well continue to develop in ways that help it elude the vaccines being deployed worldwide. For example, the Moderna and Pfizer-BioNTech claim their vaccines are effective against new variants of the coronavirus discovered in Britain and South Africa. But they are slightly less protective against the variant in South Africa.

New forms of the vaccines may need to be developed to combat the new forms of the virus.

If about one-third of the population persist in refusing to be vaccinated then herd immunity will be difficult to be reached and the goal of ending the pandemic may be difficult to achieve.

Herd immunity occurs when enough people (about 75% to 85%) in a population have developed long-lasting immunity to a virus or disease, either through infections or vaccination.

The resistance to vaccinations is exacerbated by the rise of white supremacy encouraged by Trump; his response to the racial justice movement; right-wing media sources that helped Trump spread disinformation about the virus.

In April 2020, The Harvard Kennedy School published a research article, The Relation between Media Consumption and Misinformation at the Outset of the SARS-CoV-2 Pandemic in the US.

The article shows that Americans who relied on right-wing sources like Fox News, Breitbart News, One, America News, The Drudge Report or Rush Limbaugh, received misinformation about the pandemic, entertained conspiracy theories and discouraged them from taking concrete steps to protect themselves and others from the virus.

Fox News provided Trump and the GOP with a television channel to distribute their “alternative facts” to entertain their loyal followers. To further this symbiosis, Trump looked to Fox News personnel for his staff and advice.

There is an irony in Trump’s minimizing the seriousness of the pandemic and his own downplaying of his own sickness with Covid-19 last October. Trump had extremely depressed blood oxygen levels at one point and a lung problem associated with pneumonia caused by the coronavirus.

Instead of using his bout with Covid-19 as a teaching experience, Trump and his medical team failed to disclose the seriousness of his condition. Trump compared Covid-19 infection to the “seasonal flu."

The resistance to vaccinations is compounded by the anti-vaccine movement (anti-vaxxers), who rely on misinformation, pseudoscience, and conspiracy mongering. What distinguishes science from the way movements like the anti-vaxxers approach evidence, is that the anti-vaxxers value clever anecdotes over careful science.

Vaccines, which are one of the safest and most efficacious preventive medical interventions humans have ever devised, arguably having saved more lives than any other medical intervention ever conceived.

In sum, the anti-vaxxers are another denialist movement, very similar to denialists of global climate change, science-based medicine, and evolution, which unfortunately remains so stubbornly resistant to reason and science.

The Los Angeles Times reports that anti-vaxxers and hate groups are teaming up to stoke fears on COVID-19 vaccines in an effort that some experts fear could create mistrust of government at a crucial moment for public health.

This mistrust of science was aided and abetted by the Trump administration's frequent disregard for scientific expertise.

How can resistance to getting vaccinations be overcome? Hopefully as the vaccines’ safety and effectiveness continues to be proven again and again over time, resistance will naturally fall away.

Persistent education about the vaccines’ importance to ending the pandemic will be essential. The hardcore anti-vaxxers will be the most difficult to convince, but with all the empirical evidence before them, perhaps they will convince themselves.

Yes, we should all get vaccinated for our own safety and the safety of the community.

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Anonymous March 7, 2021 8:34 am (Pacific time)

The organized anti-vaccine industry has targeted this issue as a way to sow doubt and confusion about COVID-19 vaccines.


Susan. March 1, 2021 9:04 am (Pacific time)

I'll consider taking the vaccine in a few years- once this massive phase 3 trial is over. There is a lot of evidence that mRNA vaccines have the potential for long-term side effects(as previous long-term trials of previous mRNA vaccines have shown, which is why they have never been approved for use in humans), which will not become apparent until a few years down the road. I don't think its crazy to question the safety and efficacy of something like this that has been rushed to market without the normal trail period completed.

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