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Vaccine hesitancy

Updated: Dec 14, 2020

In case anyone is still unaware, we are in a public health crisis. The unruly virus is running rampant in all sectors of the US population (and economy)-surpassing a 3,000 daily death toll and nearing an ominous 300,000 total deaths. These numbers are scary, sure, but we've all become accustomed to the Covid counts, and subsequent media barrage. There are less nay-sayers, it seems, that don't believe Covid exists, and less people also that are willing to scream at Costco managers about their personal freedoms while not wearing masks.

But, after spending several months witnessing the Covid epidemic from the road, and seeing first hand the differences in strategies between the rural ranchers of Wyoming and the urban San Francisco tech worker-opinions are We are approaching a new disinformation hurdle: vaccine hesitancy. The first vaccine was administered 2 days ago in the UK, and the 1.5 million global deaths illustrate that its not a moment too soon. However, in recent polls the pew research center and gallup both found an underwhelming response to 'would you get the vaccine if it was available today?"

PewResearch found only About half of U.S. adults (51%) now say they would definitely or probably get a vaccine to prevent COVID-19 if it were available today; nearly as many (49%) say they definitely or probably would not get vaccinated at this time. Minority respondents are even less likely to trust in the vaccine process; with only 32% of Black adults agreeing to definitely getting vaccinated, and 56% of Hispanics agreeing to the safety and efficacy of the vaccine. Of course, the political undertones are still reverberating around the presidential endorsement of Remdesivir, and its subsquent FDA approval. And now, a Trumpian realization that he alone is deserving the credit for Operation Warpspeed.. brings us to our over-politicized reality: How does this country weed through the data, politics, and information over-load to reach our goal of herd immunity?

For those of us in healthcare, the divide is equally as complex. 'Expedited development' was cited as the primary reluctance of healthcare workers to receive the vaccine, in a recent poll of doctor and nurses, most notable, 66.5% intend to delay vaccination. In the recent podcast, The Drive, Paul Offit MD presents a clear minded account of the pharmaceutical industry's risk reduction while manufacturing the Covid vaccine. The facts are clearly stated, and the plausible steps that were skipped because the government took all the risk, explains why a safe vaccine will be available in just over a year from when scientists first extracted the novel coronavirus. But, the truth (still) lies in the teller. Or more aptly put, the truth is rarely pure and never simple.

Unfortunately, a vaccine alone will not get us past this pandemic. Our mission over the coming months, as the vaccine becomes widely available, is to convince the most vulnerable populations of the vaccine's safety, and efficacy. If we can re-establish trust in our medical leaders, provide clear and compassionate leadership, our population may just see each others' naked smiles once again.

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