To Vaccinate or Not


The reluctance many Americans have to receiving the Covid-19 vaccination is both puzzling and worrisome.  To date, more than 183 million Americans have received one dose of the vaccines approved by the FDA (Food and Drug Administration) for emergency use.  This comprises approximately 56% of the population.  Those who have received both doses and are, therefore, fully vaccinated are more than 158 million people that make-up about 48% of the population. 

Those most resistant to receiving the vaccine come from Republican states.  However, more puzzling, are the large percentage of blacks who are against becoming vaccinated.  In the case of the former, the many sources of news media much of which does not support scientific data, may be influencing their decision.  Because the black population does not, in general, vote like Republicans do, their resistance to receiving the vaccine comes from a different source.  I believe many blacks possess an overall distrust of the U.S. Government due to the way they have been treated in the past.  One example of this that comes to mind is the Tuskegee experiment in the 1930’s, where blacks thought they were being treated for some disease, but did not know which one it was. Without telling the black male “Volunteers” what they were investigating, the experimenters administered only a placebo to black males who had been diagnosed with syphilis.  As an incentive to take part in the study, the subjects were given free medical care and hot meals, both highly valued given the fact that during this time the Great Depression had blindsided the country. The underlying unethical manipulation of the black subjects, who thought they were being treated for some disease, was never uncovered until 1972, more than 30 years after the original studies had been conducted.

Young people who do not want to take the vaccine have different reasons than either Republicans or blacks.  Many view themselves at low risk for contracting Covid-19, and even if they catch the illness, they believe they can survive.  One young male, when asked whether or not he would take the vaccine, said “I just won’t go near my grandfather.”  Of course, the problem with this way of thinking is there are other people he may infect, especially, now that communities are opening up.

A further problem with refusing vaccination may allow the delta variant, the most contagious form yet of the Covid-19, to spread more rapidly.  Moreover, recent data have shown that the states having the greatest surge of Covid19 are Missouri, Nevada, Illinois and Arkansas. It is not a coincidence that the data from these states indicate a vaccination rate lower than the national average.  President Biden was hoping that by now 70% of the population would have been vaccinated, a number that would approach herd immunity.  Unfortunately, as indicated by the above numbers, this did not happen.

What can be done about the problem?  One suggestion is for the FDA to grant the vaccines available to the public full approval rather than the status of temporary or emergency use.  Prior to receiving FDA approval for emergency use, over 70,000 people participated in trial runs reviewed by the agency.  Now over 183 million people have received vaccinations resulting in a very low incidence of any serious side effects.  Typical side effects have been sore arms, minor headaches and in fewer cases, fever and chills, for about 24 hours.  Another reason to be supportive of the vaccine is that it will provide some degree of protection against the penetration of the delta variant of the Covid-19.

Those that are unsure of the risk factor of the vaccine need to realize the FDA was not remiss in clearing it for emergency use.  The decision-making process regarding comparable risk is simply not rational.  Political or not no one can deny that to date over 600,000 American lives have been lost due to Covid-19.  But what is not as clear is what is happening to those that survived the virus after actually contracting it.  The time that one recovers from Covid-19 appears to be a huge variable with a number of people revealing subsequent symptoms that render their everyday life much more difficult than previously.  Young people who believe they are invulnerable due to their age need to comprehend this more fully.

Because it is the mark of a free society that distinguishes us from countries like China and Russia, I agree with President Biden that federal employees should not be compelled to vaccinate. On the other hand, I believe that employers with their own businesses have the right to require vaccination of their workers to protect the spread of the virus by protecting their co-workers, clients and society at large.

Several months ago, ex-Laker basketball star, Kareem Abdul Jabbar, in an article in the Op-Ed page of the New York Times, wrote about the importance of celebrity idols explaining the value of the vaccine.   Now that it is safer to be in public, black stars of both genders could speak to black communities with the message of how vital the vaccine is.  Their emphasis on the benefits of vaccination would be enhanced by virtue of the fact that the black mortality rate of Covid-19 has been higher than that of whites. 

As for Republican resistance toward the vaccine, I view it as disheartening that political perspective has become more important than the scientific data presented by the medical world.  Former President Donald Trump was vaccinated.  He did publicly state on a Fox News Interview that he “would recommend the vaccine to a lot of people that don’t want to get it, and a lot of those people voted for me, frankly.”  Although one never knows what to expect from Mr. Trump, if he were to speak of the value of the vaccine to his supporters, I am sure many of his followers would change their minds about receiving the vaccine.  However, beyond Mr. Trump, the Republican Party, in its current torn state, lacks the power and influence to reach its advocates. 

Ohio provided an inducement to its constituents by offering a lottery to those who received their first Covid-19 shot.  The outcome of this idea produced promising results with a corresponding increase of people throughout the state vaccinated.  Oregon has decided to employ a similar lottery to its residents.  Hopefully, strategies like this in the future, will offset the strong doubts people have had about the vaccine.