TAMPA — Vaccine hesitancy is something doctors are dealing with right now.
“The hesitancy, if we can’t overcome that just means this is a prolonged pandemic. More death, and I mean more death,” said Dr. Gabe Kelen, Director of Johns Hopkins Office of Critical Preparedness and Response.
Medical experts say there are three broad reasons people are skeptical:
- In the last decade there’s been a trend towards a trust gap regarding vaccines and generally some aspects of healthcare.
- Some people feel like the vaccine process is being rushed, although researchers say that’s not the case.
- There is medical reluctance and mistrust in certain cultural communities.
“It’s understandable, right? Unfortunately it’s among the most vulnerable to COVID; African Americans, Latinx people, other minorities who are dying in higher numbers than others who aren’t,” said Kelen.
As COVID-19 numbers start to spike again across the country, experts are working on ways to improve vaccine hesitancy.
“We can’t keep this up. There’s no way I can run a hospital the way we’re running it at this kind of capacity. You just cannot do it,” said Kelen.
One of those efforts is being transparent with local communities.
“We need to level with the public, what we actually do and don’t know. So we do have short term safety data, we actually do have some intermediate safety data because some people entered the safety trials and they’re about 6 months out. The vast majority of people with serious reactions are going to see them within a matter of days, but certainly within 40 days,” said Kelen.
However experts don’t have long term safety data.
They’re also working to enlist peers to reach certain cultural communities and educate minorities on the vaccines so they feel comfortable getting one.
Lastly, Kelen says they ask people this: what’s the alternative to getting a vaccine? Doctors say without it, it would take years to reach herd immunity.
“This is the one light at the end of the tunnel...there’s no guarantees in life, but such low risk. This can stop the pandemic and we can get back to our lives. Just hang in there for now. Wear your masks, do the right thing, just hang in there. The vaccine is around the corner. We can handle a few more months of this and then right ourselves and our health and society,” said Kelen.