SAN FRANCISCO, CA– In April 2020, it seemed like anyone would have jumped for the chance to get a Covid vaccine. But a year later, when we have vaccines, 1 in 4 Americans said they would refuse to get vaccinated. Another 5% of Americans have not decided if they are going to get the vaccine. Why don’t they want to get vaccinated? A lot of anti-vaxxers believe that the vaccine is more dangerous than the virus, even though the vaccine has been proven to work.
On December 11, 2020, the FDA issued the first emergency use vaccine for COVID-19. A lot of people were really excited to finally have a vaccine. In the US, 604,000 have died due to COVID-19. We need to be vaccinated against COVID to have herd immunity. Herd immunity is when a large portion of a community becomes immune to disease, and it becomes harder to spread. If you get the vaccine, you can become immune to the disease. Without the vaccine, there won’t be herd immunity.
So, what is an anti-vaxxer? An anti-vaxxer is a person who is opposed to vaccines and refuses to get one. Ever since the 1800s, some people have been refusing to get vaccines. And people still refuse to get the COVID-19 vaccine today. There are conspiracy theories that the COVID-19 vaccine has a microchip in it and it can control you, that it makes you magnetic, and that it causes autism. These conspiracy theories are untrue. But still, “31 million people follow anti-vaccine groups on Facebook, with 17 million people subscribing to similar accounts on YouTube” according to The Lancet Digital Health.
Lu Shan, a research scientist in San Francisco, has a sister who is an anti-vaxxer. Shan is fully vaccinated, and she knows that the vaccine is effective. Her sister was a biologist, but she is a wealth manager now. Why would her sister believe in news other than the medical studies that have proven that the vaccines work? “It’s pretty clear, just why isn’t it clear for them?” Shan said.
Shan’s sister has friends who are anti-vaxxers. She has also watched videos on YouTube about COVID-19 conspiracy theories and fake news. As Shan said, “Somehow there is this—” she pauses. “There is this fear that the vaccine is more dangerous than the virus!”
Being an anti-vaxxer doesn’t just affect one person, but also the whole family. It’s just like a ripple effect. Some anti-vaxxer parents might be preventing their children from getting vaccinated even though the children don’t buy into these conspiracy theories.
Dulcie Feinstein’s mother has been an anti-vaxxer even before COVID. When her sister was little, she got a vaccine and got sick after that, so her mom thought vaccines can make you sick (a common myth). When Dulcie was little, she never got any vaccines, but she got her vaccine for COVID-19. Her mother does not support that decision and thinks she “failed as a mother.” Dulcie said that her mom has always been in favor of nontraditional medicine, but Dulcie believes that if there is a chance you could survive COVID, it’s better to get the vaccine.
It will be harder for the US to reach herd immunity if there are so many anti-vaxxers. Businesses, states, and local governments are offering prizes and incentives for people to get vaccinated. But as long as there are anti-vaxxers, COVID-19 won’t go away for good.