Are There Good Reasons to be Vaccine Hesitant?

Some Americans are very reluctant to get vaccinated for the pandemic virus. Why?

Full disclosure, I am vaccine-hesitant specifically for the mRNA vaccines. I do not have a reluctance to be vaccinated with a traditionally developed vaccine. I also do not have an overwhelming need to be vaccinated against a disease that is 99+% survivable. However, some people are hesitant for this and other reasons.

I am not addressing the anti-vaxx people. People with philosophical reasons and deeply held beliefs against vaccines, regardless of the issues, refuse to take any vaccine, not just the COVID-19 vaccines.

Hesitancy to COVID-19 Vaccine

https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/why-vaccine-hesitancy-must-be-addressed-empathetically. People can be tentative about getting vaccinated because they were misinformed regarding the safety or even past bad experiences with the medical industry or personal experiences with vaccines.

I have had vaccinations for 30+ years during my military career. I did the anthrax series with less than one year to retire. I thought I would be in Japan for a business meeting and was required to get the Japanese encephalitis shot three months before my retirement. The meeting was rescheduled and happened months later.

My hesitancy is the new technology, mRNA, and the times allocated to clinical trials. I understand precisely how the mRNA vaccine works and agree with this concept. The trials were done with specific groups of people in months rather than years. I have doubts and concerns about the long-term side effects of this type of vaccine. Monitoring the mRNA vaccinated pool of people for a couple or more years should dispel my doubts and concerns.

Herd Immunity in Jeopardy?

https://www.cnbc.com/2021/02/10/biden-covid-vaccine-anti-vaxxers-us.html. We are told that the nature of the viral transmission of coronavirus requires at least 65% of a population to be protected to stop the virus’s spread. Are there more than 35% of our population who are averse to the COVID-19 vaccine that it can disrupt the attempt at achieving herd immunity?

Maybe in some pockets of the country or specific businesses. Articles at the beginning of the vaccine rollout suggested that 65% was the correct percentage of Americans to stop the disease’s spread. However, I am reading today that scientists now want 70% to 85% vaccinated (or protected) to control infection.

Part of the problem is the target moves. Whether it is 65%, 75%, or 85% is not supercritical. The real number is 65% based on the reproduction number of 3 for SARS-CoV-2. (https://www.bbc.com/news/health-52473523). The reproduction number (R0) is less than 1.0 based on infections, vaccinations, and demographics in some places.

When R0 is less than one, the virus’s ability to infect an innocent bystander is degraded. The past four days in Houston at the Medical Center, the R0 has been 0.87 (https://www.tmc.edu/coronavirus-updates/effective-reproduction-rate-for-harris-county/).

When R0 equals 1.0, one hundred people will infect another 100 people. An R0 of 0.87 means that 100 people will infect 87 others. As more people contract the virus and more vaccines are dispensed, the R0 continues to decrease. Herd immunity should be achievable as hesitancy crumbles.

Vaccine Refusals

https://science.sciencemag.org/content/371/6536/1289. Do people hesitate to get the COVID-19 vaccine because of confidence, complacency, or other reasons. I believe a few believe the scare tactics of headlines they have seen for a year. Panic and doom lead to a mentality of no way out with this virus. The 99% survival rate means little to nothing to them. Others are the exact opposite, and they will run to the first vaccine station and want to push others out of the way to get the vaccine, even when a few already contracted the virus.

People are funny, peculiar, not hilarious about what they hear and believe. Tell someone enough times, and they will believe it – true or not! If the media is uncertain and the story changes often, a lack of trust in the medical authorities develops. As more people succumb to the latest news, social and cultural norms mature with misinformation, hesitancy grows.

People may refuse to get a vaccine because they have concerns about the newer technology used to create the vaccine, like me. However, that refusal should not be interpreted to mean that a person who refuses a vaccine or is hesitant to get a vaccine will not become vaccinated later this year. This group is difficult to quantify because of many variables. My best guess is that it probably represents 20% on the high end and 10% on the low end – not enough to impact herd immunity.

Conclusion

I see the percentages required for herd immunity starting to inch upward from 65%. The numbers point towards adults (not children) needing to be vaccinated. Over 40% of adults (110 million) have received at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine (https://covid.cdc.gov/covid-data-tracker/#vaccinations). Nearly 10% of Americans have been infected with the disease and have an innate immunity to the virus.

How long will that immunity last? No one knows. How long will the effectiveness of a vaccine last? No one knows. One-hundred-forty million Americans, 42% of all Americans, have some level of protection from the virus by either having had coronavirus or have at least one dose of vaccine.

There are another 75 million Americans under the age of 18 that are inherently resistant to the virus to the level of hospitalization and death. Two-hundred and fifty-one children, 17-years old and younger, have died from COVID-19 (https://www.cdc.gov/nchs/nvss/vsrr/covid_weekly/index.htm).

Yes, those under 18 years of age can catch and transmit the disease, but the risk of hospitalization and death is extremely small. Most of the time, the cases would most likely be asymptomatic. Vaccines for this group will not be available for another few months. Are they more hesitant than the adult population of the United States? I have not seen numbers defining their perspective.

Regardless, people will get the COVID-19 vaccine when they think it is safe and prudent. If this disease were 10%, 20%, or 30% lethal, it would be a different story. But a disease with a death rate in the low single digits is enough for some of us to wait.

Communities are continuing to monitor R0, and hospitalizations for severe cases of COVID-19 are still trending downward. I see a million people a day getting vaccinated in the United States. Outside the US, there are many different stories.

Live Longer & Enjoy Life! – Red O’Laughlin – RedOLaughlin.com

 

 


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