By: Molly Amick
After a grueling 10 months of coronavirus maintaining its pandemic status, the Covid vaccine offers hope by route of herd immunity. When the Pfizer vaccine was first approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) I, like many others, received the news in amazement: We can finally succeed where our country’s inconsistently followed social distancing and mask-wearing mandates failed. We can vaccinate the people to immunize those at risk, stop the spread and wrangle the coronavirus. One problem: the anti-vaccine movement persists and many Americans will not accept a vaccine.
CNBC reports that 70-85 percent of the population needs to be vaccinated in order for us to overcome the virus and to return to our pre-Covid-19 lifestyles. In the latest CDC poll surveying the percentage of people intending to receive the vaccine, it was found that only around half of the population (49.1 percent, to be specific) indicated they were likely to get a vaccine. Because this poll was conducted in December, there is a possibility that this number has grown. The poll also shows that 32.1 percent of people reported specific non-intent to get the vaccine, leaving about 68 percent of the population who may get it. If this number has grown since the statistics were taken, we could have enough people willing to get their shots to reach the number we need for successful herd immunity.
It is true there are many people not only willing, but enthusiastically wanting to take a vaccine. This still doesn’t subtract from the fact that there is noticeable skepticism and unwillingness to get vaccinated amongst Americans. “We were getting 30% or 40% or 50% of those eligible who were passing on it,” New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio said regarding those eligible to get their vaccine.
Why, in a developed country which has been fortunate enough to have safe and advanced medical technology, is it so common to see anti-vaccination (anti-vax) beliefs and such a lack of acceptance of the scientific community (who are repeatedly insisting vaccines are safe and important)? Unfortunately, the anti-vax movement is not unique to the coronavirus vaccine or this time period. Many of the beliefs that today’s antivaxxers hold come from a 1995 British study that claimed the measles vaccine could cause autism in kids. This study has been disproven for quite some time, but many still reference it.
Some antivaxxers are also conspiracy theorists, sharing their beliefs online in community forums such as Reddit. Apps like Instagram and Twitter also hold many anti-vax accounts and posts. The social media conspiracy theorists share beliefs that the Covid vaccines contain a secret implant to track those injected with it, and that Bill Gates is behind these tracker-vaccines. Another common conspiracy theory says that the vaccine is capable of altering human DNA, which it is not. These public forums become dangerous because individuals who might otherwise turn to scientists and professionals for vaccine information are now looking to posters (who often have little to no qualification to be speaking authoritatively on the topic) for their information. In these forums, conspiracy theorists and antivaxxers affirm one another while most of the general public would disagree with antivaxxers in ordinary communication. This causes them to maintain and defend unfounded beliefs.
While the increased rollout of Covid vaccinations is letting us imagine a post-pandemic society, those refusing vaccines may make this an unattainable reality. Most people, luckily, do accept vaccines--but it’s still important we fight the stubborn misinformation about vaccines.