Vaccine hesitancy is becoming a problem

Woman unpacking COVID-19 vaccines; vaccine hesitancy has become a real issue
Photo via New York National Guard/Flickr (CC BY-ND 2.0)

To reach the goalpost of a “return to normal,” experts estimate the United States will need roughly 70% of the population to be vaccinated against COVID-19. To reach this milestone, the issue of vaccine hesitancy will need to be dealt with.

Meanwhile, millions of Americans are hesitant to receive a COVID-19 vaccine due to a myriad of issues ranging from misinformation surrounding the vaccine and its cost to concerns over blood clots and the Johnson & Johnson vaccine.

What is vaccine hesitancy?

The World Health Organization defines vaccine hesitancy as a “delay in acceptance or refusal of vaccines despite availability of vaccine services” and “is influenced by factors such as complacency, convenience, and confidence.”

A recent survey from the U.S. Census found that 6.9 million Americans intend to avoid the vaccine due to concerns over its cost, according to Fortune. The entire cost for a vaccination from any of the approved COVID-19 vaccine providers is being covered by the U.S. government, but this information has clearly not reached all American citizens. It is fueling vaccine hesitancy, which could pose a real problem as the country continues to struggle with its case numbers. 

On top of communication issues surrounding the cost of a vaccine, recent news potentially linking blood clots to the Johnson & Johnson vaccine is getting in the way of vaccination efforts.

Federal health authorities recommended a pause on the vaccine’s rollout after several instances of blood clots were tagged as having a potential link back to the vaccine. Out of nearly 7 million recipients, only six people who received the Johnson & Johnson vaccine developed blood clots. 

Despite the low number of reported blood clots, news of a potential link has added to existing concerns about the vaccines. Rampant anti-vaxx misinformation, paired with concerns over the speed at which COVID-19 vaccines were approved, has led to a surge in vaccine hesitancy among Americans. 

Concerns over vaccine cost are particularly high among senior citizens. According to Fortune, “More than 282,000 Americans over 65 don’t plan to get vaccinated because of mistaken cost concerns.” Vaccine hesitancy varies among demographics but is highest among Black citizens. The Census data shows that 8% of Black Americans are hesitant about the COVID-19 vaccines, as compared to 5% of white Americans and 6% of Hispanic Americans. 

Data shows that Black and Hispanic Americans are at higher risk of contracting and dying from COVID-19. Even early in the pandemic, Black New Yorkers were dying at more than twice the rate of their white neighbors. This trend has continued throughout the pandemic, further fueling concerns over vaccine hesitancy among these communities.

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Sources: Fortune, NBC News, CNN, World Health Organization

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