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Last week, I read about a brothel in Austria planning an on-site clinic for the COVID-19 vaccine and offering “free access to anyone willing to get the jab on-site.”
Do your part to protect public health and fornicate with a prostitute for free! That’ll convince the remaining holdouts, right? But despite obviously absurd efforts both here and abroad, millions of people remain unvaccinated — on purpose.
Unfortunately, few have shown much deference to the concerns of the unvaccinated. Emboldened by public policy, such as a new bureaucratic rule issued by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration requiring workers at companies employing 100 or more to vaccinate against COVID-19 or endure mandatory masking and weekly testing, purveyors of popular opinion are dividing society in two, drawing a moral line at the center.
Morality equals vaccination against COVID-19. To not vaccinate is ignorance, selfishness and recklessness. The vaccinated promote science, but the unvaccinated “spread misinformation.”
It’s unsurprising, therefore, that many who’ve declined the COVID-19 vaccine are afraid to speak about doing so. Each unvaccinated person I interviewed for their perspective preferred anonymity, fearing backlash. None of them are typical “anti-vaxxers.” They’re immunized against conditions like polio and measles and have, when applicable, authorized the same shots for their children. Each is college-educated and employed in leadership positions. They hardly fit the profile of the uneducated rube some have been labeled by popular culture.
Their concerns sound much like those shared by many about hastily approved drugs before COVID-19 existed. Most new medications, vaccines included, take a decade or longer to develop and test before they are formally authorized for use. But while the COVID-19 vaccines have completed user trials, there’s no historical data to address long-term risks. Only the Pfizer vaccine is fully approved by the FDA; the rest are only available under emergency authorization.
Additionally some people are troubled by immediate risks, however rare, such as myocarditis in younger males and menstrual irregularities in females. Reports of serious blood clots after vaccination, which briefly prompted the FDA to suspend the Johnson and Johnson vaccine, haven’t done anything to assuage concerns.
While acknowledging that vaccines lower the risk of severe sickness or death from COVID-19, each person I interviewed also reported having already had and recovered from COVID-19. While natural immunity is, like the vaccine, not 100 percent effective, they’ve concluded that for now, the urgency to protect themselves from severe illness does not outweigh the unknowns of vaccination.
Interestingly, some information influencing decisions to not vaccinate comes from the very experts advising the vaccinated. One person I talked to cited the CDC’s warning that vaccinated individuals can still spread COVID-19. Because mandatory workplace testing under OHSA’s rule wouldn’t apply to vaccinated workers, my source pointed out, vaccinated workers might be more likely to unwittingly spread the virus than unvaccinated. To them, this perceived countereffect suggests that COVID-19 policy is influenced too much by popular opinion and not enough by science.
Every person I interviewed for this column indicated that their hesitance about the COVID-19 vaccine isn’t necessarily permanent. But they’re adamant that the decision remains a personal one which must be made with careful consideration and never influenced by political pressure. Those who are vaccinated, myself included, should consider that “doing our part” to fight COVID-19 might include listening to the concerns of our unvaccinated peers. Not to rebut, but to understand.
Althea Cole is a Gazette editorial fellow and is fully vaccinated. Comments: email@example.com