Vaccine Hesitancy in the US

Written by: Mira

Edited by: Martin 

Visual by: Ethan

Amid the presence of the highly transmissible Delta variant, US daily COVID cases soar to almost 150,000; at the same time more than 93 million unvaccinated Americans who don’t think COVID is serious enough to be vaccinated against have continued living as if everything is back to normal. When asked about their vaccination statuses, some Americans cite privacy as a reason to not get vaccinated while others think the vaccine was too new. Chet Hanks, son of Tom Hanks, clearly communicates his distrust of the vaccines when he claims there’s more evidence of “UFOs being real than that vaccine being healthy.” 

Vaccination is the hot topic in social media “cultural wars” (BBC), where the unvaccinated are often labeled by vaccinated individuals as selfish, unempathetic, or ignorant. And it’s a fair argument:unvaccinated individuals not only put themselves at risk of getting COVID, but also “inflict an unjustifiable harm on family, friends, neighbors, community, country, and planet” (David Frum, the Atlantic). With the knowledge that getting vaccinated could potentially save the lives of individuals and the people around them, why are so many people still vaccine hesitant? 

The biggest factors that fuel the US’s vaccine hesitancy are a lack of confidence, apathy, and the absence of collective responsibility regarding vaccination. Though it’s been established multiple times by the WHO and the FDA that COVID vaccines are safe and effective, numerous Americans still aren’t confident that the vaccines are past the experimental stage. News–particularly those from biased sources–emphasizing alarming vaccine side effects only spread fear, depicting rare side effects to be more common than they really are. As a result, some people begin to question: are all side effects adequately accounted for? Is the vaccine too new for the US government to be pushing forward with such force? Is the vaccine really safe? These questions were not only raised in the US, but also in the Philippines. A nationwide survey conducted by Social Weathers Station revealed the biggest reason for vaccine hesitancy is the lack of trust in the vaccine’s effectiveness, as well as the worry that the vaccine was rushed and therefore might produce unintended side effects (CNN). 

There is also vaccine apathy; even now, the seriousness of COVID is downplayed through the misconception that only the older generation and those who are immunocompromised are at risk. The younger age groups being the lowest priority for vaccination during the US’s vaccine rollout further fueled this belief. This deep rooted belief means many apathetic Americans will have low-involvement in taking initiative to see if their opinions could change. However, much of their apathy would most likely dissipate if they researched the true seriousness of COVID and its variants, and observed the vaccines’ effectiveness apply not only to the older generations, but to the younger generations, too.

Rather than a lack of confidence in the vaccines and vaccine apathy, what’s most frustrating is citing personal freedom as a reason not to get vaccinated. Confusions and fears regarding the efficiency of COVID vaccines and risk groups are reasonable, because it’s easy to be influenced by misinformation when people don’t do thorough research. However, treating getting vaccinated during this time as a personal decision is illogical. Vaccinations are a personal decision to an extent, but not in the context of a deadly global pandemic that has been going on for almost two years and taken nearly 4.5 million lives (John Hopikins).

The factors that fuel vaccine hesitancy could be addressed by educating the public more thoroughly about COVID vaccines and encouraging people to do their research. For starters, bigger social media platforms including Facebook have begun taking a harsher stand against COVID misinformation, actively deleting accounts and taking down posts that spread fake news. In collaboration with the US government, influencers such as Olivia Rodrigo have hosted events to address vaccine apathy and the importance of getting vaccinated. News broadcasts with health professionals continue to debunk myths and provide updates regarding vaccinations. 

The US still has a long way to go regarding it’s struggle with vaccine hesitancy, but being more firm with these initiatives taken to reduce confusion, encourage, and educate the American public will most definitely pay off in the future.  

Works Cited

Bouie, Jamelle. “If You Skip the Vaccine, It Is My ‘Damn Business.'” The New York Times, 13 Aug. 2021, Accessed 21 Aug. 2021.

“COVID-19 Dashboard by the Center for Systems Science and Engineering (CSSE) at Johns Hopkins University (JHU).” John Hopkins University and Medicine, Accessed 24 Aug. 2021.

Liao, Joshua. “Persuading People to Get Vaccinated for Covid-19 Means Understanding Why They Aren’t.” Forbes, 12 Aug. 2021, Accessed 21 Aug. 2021.

Ortiz, Erik. “As Covid Cases Surge, Unvaccinated Americans Trigger Scorn, Resentment from Many Vaccinated People.” NBC News, 28 July 2021, Accessed 21 Aug. 2021.

Robson, David. “Why Some People Don’t Want a Covid-19 Vaccine.” BBC Future, 23 July 2021, Accessed 21 Aug. 2021.

Suazo, Juli. “The Search for Vaccines in the Philippines.” CNN Philippines, 25 July 2021, Accessed 23 Aug. 2021.