COVID-19 Vaccine Misinformation Sparks Doubt Among the Public
February 10, 2021
Since Feb. 2021, there has been a total of over twenty-six million cases of COVID-19 in the U.S. The news of Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna’s vaccine release sparked a sense of hope for many that soon the pandemic would come to an end. Despite the vaccine being a preliminary solution to the country’s problems in public health, education, and the economy, why is it that forty percent of Americans are still hesitant to receive the vaccine?
One of the chief concerns about the COVID-19 vaccine is among the anti-vaccine proponents. “Anti-vaxxers” are people that believe that vaccines are unsafe and that being forced to get one is an infringement upon their rights. The coronavirus vaccine is not mandatory; however, many anti-vaxxers disapprove of public health officials’ push of widespread vaccinations. Anti-vaxxers believe that vaccines can cause autism in young children. It is estimated that around 3 in 10 people in the U.S. believe that vaccines should not be mandatory, though the exact number is difficult to calculate. The anti-vaccine sentiment extends not only towards combatants of diseases like influenza or the measles, but also towards the COVID-19 vaccine.
Paige Gonzalez (‘23) said, “I think that anti-vaxxers have definitely spread the wrong idea to some people about the coronavirus vaccine, and they believe it as though it’s a fact rather than an idea, but science backs the idea that the vaccine is more helpful than harmful.”
#COVID19 vaccines keep you from getting COVID-19. As of February 1, 2021, more than 26 million people had received their first dose of a COVID-19 vaccine. Of those, almost 6 million had received both doses and are fully vaccinated. More: https://t.co/zYLe3H12re pic.twitter.com/HiREdQm0c6
— CDC (@CDCgov) February 1, 2021
The myth that vaccines lead to autism has been debunked numerous times by scientific studies. There is no substantial, credible evidence to support the anti-vaccine movement.
Just fourteen percent of Black Americans and thirty-four percent of Latinx Americans trust in the safety of the coronavirus vaccine, however. These statistics can be explained by the deep distrust felt between the African American community and the healthcare system. Historically, racial minorities have been mistreated in vaccination efforts. The Tuskegee Syphilis Study, for instance, subjected six hundred Black men to nonconsensual experiments in which subjects infected with syphilis were not given treatment. With the last victim of these experiments having died in 2004, the incident is still fresh in many minorities’ minds. The seemingly experimental nature of the COVID-19 vaccine, due to its rushed vetting process, has only worsened such doubts.
Another cause for hesitancy is the doubts among political leaders concerning the urgency and safety of receiving the vaccine. Former President Donald Trump said in May 2020 that the coronavirus pandemic would go away without a vaccine. Trump’s downplay of COVID-19 lessened the urgency of vaccinations among his supporters. Trump reversed this opinion later in 2020 and depended on vaccine approvals as a method of ending the pandemic. On the other side of the political aisle, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo said in an interview that he wouldn’t recommend the vaccine to New Yorkers based solely on the federal government’s opinion. Cuomo and several other politicians were skeptical of the vaccine’s efficacy last fall, citing the Trump administration’s rush to get it approved by the FDA. These conflicting views have created doubts about the coronavirus vaccine in the minds of many Americans.
History Teacher Damian Wulff said, “I agree that [the vaccine] has become a political issue, and I know people who are impacted by that conversation who don’t trust the politicians who are encouraging people to take it. On the other hand, I think that people are being encouraged to take it because they do trust the politicians that are recommending it to the public.”
Many politicians have publicized their vaccinations in order to reaffirm the public’s trust, such as President Joe Biden.
Despite these criticisms, health officials continue to reiterate the safety and urgency of widespread vaccine distribution. The risk of death from COVID-19 is far more than the risk of an allergic reaction or death from the vaccine.
80-85% of the American population has to build immunity — either through getting coronavirus directly or through the vaccine — for the country to reach herd immunity. Reaching this level of immunity without a vaccine would mean an unjustifiable amount of deaths. 200 million people would have to recover from COVID-19, which would overwhelm the healthcare system and endanger the lives of people living with preexisting conditions that make them more vulnerable to the disease.
“I trust in the safety of the COVID vaccine because even though there are always going to be unknown health risks, there have been numerous amounts of testing done to ensure the safety of it and many have already taken it,” said Brynn Wilary (‘23).
An effective nationwide vaccination plan would be enough to stop the spread of coronavirus in the U.S. Chief Medical Advisor Dr. Anthony Fauci said, “We need to get as many people as possible vaccinated. And if you get an overwhelming majority of the people vaccinated with a highly efficacious vaccine, we can reasonably quickly get to the herd immunity that would be a blanket of protection for the country.”