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Combatting COVID-19 Vaccine Hesitancy

The best defense against COVID-19 hospitalization and mortality is still vaccination. Vaccination fundamentally alters host susceptibility, affects pathogen virulence and the minimum necessary inoculum, and limits the ubiquitous nature of the disease. Unfortunately, there is still quite a bit of vaccine hesitancy.

Common Reasons for Vaccine Hesitancy

Here are the most common reasons that people resist getting the vaccine:

  • Concern the vaccine was developed too fast
  • The products are not FDA approved
  • Time off from work concerns if they experience side effects
  • Difficulty or lack of knowledge in how to access
  • Mistrust vaccination sites; prefer own physician
  • Worry the vaccine will affect the patient’s DNA
  • Desire to not be part of a national vaccine mandate
  • Urban legend that there’s a microchip in the vaccine

All of the above concerns fall in the face of the facts:

  • The vaccine technology has been around for decades and is not dissimilar to a new influenza vaccine rolled out each year
  • Quite a few products are not FDA approved (e.g., aspirin for heart attack not FDA approved but used clinically)
  • The vaccine will not affect the patient’s DNA; both vaccine types provide instructions to the immune system but do not enter the nucleus
  • The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) cannot mandate vaccination or keep records; some businesses or States may do so depending on the law
  • There is no microchip in the vaccine

Concerns about the Janssen (Johnson & Johnson) vaccine also have had an impact in the United States. Let’s take a deeper look.

The Janssen (Johnson & Johnson) Vaccine

While the Janssen vaccine has been in use in 25 countries and promises to be a very important tool in the overall battle against COVID-19, two events have resulted in serious consequences for the vaccine:

  • The Janssen vaccine’s link to a rare but serious blood-clotting disorder, resulted in pausing the vaccine’s administration for 10 days in April 2021
  • A major production mishap at a factory in Baltimore resulted in a two-month shutdown in operations 

While early hopes for the Janssen’s “one-and done” administration and less complex storage requirements pointed to its potential for reaching vulnerable and isolated Americans, these events have led to Janssen essentially sitting out the pandemic in the United States while Pfizer and Moderna provide almost all of the country’s vaccine stock. 

As of June 2021, only about 3.5 million doses of the Janssen vaccine have been used since the pause in administration was lifted on April 23. With that in mind, how can those of us working in healthcare support increased vaccinations?

How You Can Help

There are a number of ways you can help:

  • If vaccinators are needed in your community, offer some time to provide vaccinations. There may be logistical issues in underserved and rural populations that could use your expertise.  
  • Assist with setting appointments. There may be a sign-up campaign somewhere in your community, or you could coordinate one yourself.  
  • Listen empathically to concerns; engage trusted partners to help with messaging
  • Show your own humanity in the struggle. Share stories and personal experiences with COVID-19 and vaccine hesitancy.  
  • Be firmly rooted in science and remain willing to convey your message with a sense of hope, compassion, love, and community.  

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Posted: Monday, July 12, 2021