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Can we get enough people vaccinated?

It’s going to take a lot of work.

In poll after poll, alarming numbers say they don’t plan to be inoculated with the vaccine, whose 95 percent efficacy rate in trials exceeded everyone’s expectations. It’s scientists’ nightmare: create one of medicine’s landmark achievements only to have large numbers of people not bother to get it.

But that appears to be the reality. Although the numbers appear to have improved since drugmakers Pfizer and Moderna reported their impressive trial results last month, about 40 percent of Americans tell poll takers they don’t plan to get a COVID-19 vaccine. In Texas, only 42 percent say they will.

Public health officials fear such numbers will hinder the campaign to shut down the greatest scourge since the 1918 Spanish influenza.

At stake is a possible squandering of the chance to get COVID-19 under control by late summer, to save countless lives that will be lost the longer it takes to stop the spread of the virus. Also at stake is an increased potential for a more lethal or contagious strain of the virus to emerge, always a threat as long as an infection continues to circulate.

“The hesitancy is bad for getting the population vaccinated to obtain herd or community immunity, which would allow for activities to become normal again,” said Kirstin Matthews, a fellow in science and technology policy at Rice University’s Baker Institute. “The Biden administration will need to find ways to gain public trust in the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and FDA to ensure communities take the vaccine.”

A national task force led by Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security and Texas State University’s anthropology department added that “if poorly designed and executed, a COVID-19 vaccine campaign in the U.S. could undermine the increasingly tenuous belief in vaccines and public health authorities who recommend them, especially among people most at risk of COVID-19 impacts.”

[…]

Vaccine mistrust has been building for years, fueled by a small but growing movement that works to exempt children for “reasons of conscience” from school-required inoculations. But the COVID-19 vaccine has brought a new audience to such groups, like Texans for Vaccine Choice. Its leader told publications this summer that its phones were ringing off the hook with calls from people who said they’d gotten other vaccines but don’t want this one.

Neil Johnson, a physicist at George Washington University who studies anti-vaccine groups on social media, has estimated that in recent months, 10 percent of people on Facebook asking questions about vaccines have switched to anti-vaccine views.

“It’s going to be a bumpy road,” said Peter Hotez, a vaccine scientist at Baylor College of Medicine. “Given media scrutiny and an aggressive anti-vaxxer movement, particularly in Texas, any adverse vaccine events are going to be amplified.”

The story cites this Texas Tribune poll from October. I feel like things are probably a bit better now, mostly because it’s clear we will now have a competent administration that takes the pandemic seriously in charge of getting the vaccine out. For sure, messaging is going to be key to this, and all of us will need to play a part to make sure our family and friends have good information and make good choices. This Twitter thread has some good advice.

There will no doubt be significant resistance no matter what, and we may have to reach a point where we impose sanctions on people who could get the vaccine but haven’t. I don’t know what that might look like, and honestly I’m not sure if there’s a practical way to do what I’m suggesting. It’s way premature at this point anyway, but it’s best to be prepared for all possibilities. And as much as anything, we need to be prepared to fight off any effort in the Lege to coddle the anti-vaxxers, who already have had way too much influence, and success. If we can just avoid not making things worse, that will be a big win.

UPDATE: See this NPR story for evidence of growing confidence in the COVID vaccine.

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11 Comments

  1. Manny says:

    I never take medicine or a vaccine without knowing what the side effects may be. Don’t plan to start changing how I have done things most of my life.

  2. Robbie Westmoreland says:

    Good thing that the information on the potential side effects is publicly available, and will be more comprehensive by the time the vaccines are available for most of us, then, right Manny?

  3. Jason Hochman says:

    The claims of effectiveness came from press releases that the drug companies themselves put out, hearkening back to the era of patent medicines when hucksters made wild claims about the medicinal properties of their elixirs. However, the vaccines may well work, but, if the study done by the city of Houston is correct, we are close to herd immunity already and don’t need this Trump vaccine developed at warp speed by another huckster who impostured his way to the White House. But not to worry, Yale University did a clinical trial of the propaganda messages that will be most effective in getting people to be vaccinated.

  4. Manny says:

    Robbie, I will wait, since I am over 70 I should be somewhere closer to the top for the vaccine, but I ain’t in a hurry. I waited till I was 65 before I took the flu vaccine. I will weigh what I consider the odds of my catching the virus and having severe reactions to what the vaccine may cause. But then again as I get older long-term effects are not quite as important, kinda like doing something about colon cancer or even screening.

    They don’t know what long term effects may be until it has been around for a while. What if they find out that it increases the chances of going blind, would you take it? What if the odds of getting dementia are increased?

    I would like to know if it will be a one-time vaccine or will it have to be taken more than once? Every year, or maybe every five years?

    The reason for rushing is to save lives? To open up the economy? Both? Something else?

  5. David Fagan says:

    What if it gives you a boner for more than 4 hours, should you call your doctor?

  6. Bill Daniels says:

    Manny,

    That sure sounds selfish to me. We have destroyed young people’s lives, screwed up their educations, we’ve put numerous businesses OUT of business, put millions out of work, killed people by refusing elective surgeries and normal things like mammograms and other cancer testing, had people die from suicide after the despair of losing all that they have, combined with forced loneliness….all this to protect people JUST LIKE YOU, Manny. You’re over 70, non white…..you are the exact demographic all this suffering by others has gone on to protect, and you “aren’t in any hurry to take the vaccine?” Really?

    We couldn’t have done it my way, not shut down the economy, and let people make their own decisions about what to and not to do, all because we were trying to save you, our respected and beloved elders, from a slight, but significant chance of dying. And now here you are, unappreciative of all the sacrifice America has made on your behalf, by showing a cavalier ce la vie attitude about taking the vaccine that folks like you insisted was the only way to “return to normal.” Talk about ungrateful, Manny.

  7. Jason Hochman says:

    You can go to this article to find out your place in line for the vaccine:

    Opinion | When Can I Get a Coronavirus Vaccine in America? – The New York Times (nytimes.com)

  8. Manny says:

    Bill, you are sick infected with stupidity and racism. I wear a mask go to store maybe oce a week. Work around the house I ain’t going to infect anyone. Did you see your police witness in the voter fraud got charged, fools the lot of you.

  9. Bill Daniels says:

    I did see that story, Manny. I didn’t realize Aguirre was the same guy who oversaw the botched K Mart parking lot raid back in the day. I’ll agree the story is an embarrassment for my side all around. There’s no defending what happened. I freely accept the L on this one. That’s the difference between us, Manny. You refuse to acknowledge when the left commits crimes.

    And gee, I wonder how Soros backed Ogg is going to treat this first time offender, compared to her pet criminals? I note she already maxxed Aguirres’ bond, and I’m sure she’s gonna stack all the charges she can think of on him, no plea deals, all the while she’s clearing the jail of her voters and dismissing cases just as fast as she can.

    Is that equity, Manny? Here’s a non white older man just like you, a first time offender, who’s clearly going to get the book thrown at him, when other people who commit even more heinous crimes walk away, many times with no bail.

    But on to the vaccine. You’re to take it to protect YOURSELF. How many Americans have died to get the vaccine to you, and you just cavalierly refuse to take it? I’m not worried about you infecting me, I’m worried about other people infecting you, although sometimes I wonder why I even bother worrying about your health.

  10. Manny says:

    Soros gave her money, so what? Because he is Jewish he is anti-Christ? Kock gives millions of dollars, that casino tycoon gives millions to kooks like you, that is how the system functions.

    As to throwing the book and him and letting others walk away for the same crime, provide examples.

    Why do insist on giving me qualities that are probably yours? I may take it but not to protect myself but if I think it benefits my family. I quit driving a motorcycle when they said I had to wear a helmet. I have had a much longer and fuller life than I ever expected, I have no reason to fear death. Two of my closest friends died in Vietnam and they were 18 and 19. Others at very early ages, God will take me when it is time, I will not argue with him or her.

  11. […] here for more on that UT/Texas Tribune poll, here for the Episcopal Health press release, and here for […]