How Should the US Respond to Skepticism and Hesitancy About the COVID-19 Vaccine?

Headline Roundup December 20th, 2021

Roughly 23% of people in the U.S. ages five and older have yet to receive a COVID-19 vaccine dose. How should the the government and the rest of the American public respond to that?

As of Monday, 77% of Americans ages five and up have received at least one dose. Tens of millions of eligible Americans haven't. People perceive the vaccine and its effectiveness differently across the spectrum, and some are more concerned about side effects or confident in natural immunity. In November, 49% of parents of kids ages 12-17 responding to a Kaiser Family Foundation poll said their child was already vaccinated, 13% said they wanted to wait, and 30% said they definitely wouldn't have their child vaccinated. For kids ages 5-11, 58% of parents said they either wanted to wait, would only do it if required, or said they definitely wouldn't do it.

Writers for many left-rated outlets, as well as some on the right, argue that the COVID-19 vaccine's benefits greatly outweigh the risks and criticize people who ignore that view. Other voices on the left highlight how social, economic or racial inequities may contribute to vaccination decisions. Many on the right say poor public health leadership, rare but fatal COVID -19 vaccine side effects and the demonization of skeptics play a big role in vaccine hesitancy. A scientist writing for Foreign Policy called on researchers to "identify the roots that underlie vaccine hesitancy" and urged that it be addressed "as an emotional, social, and cultural problem."

From the Center
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OPINION

As of early December, about 8.5 billion doses of COVID-19 vaccine have been administered worldwide. That makes the COVID-19 vaccination effort easily the largest public health intervention in history—and yet, its success has been mixed. The world’s most vulnerable countries have been denied their fair share of vaccination doses, while in wealthier countries, the main problem is not access but hesitancy, often concentrated in specific regions of anti-vaccination sentiment. For example, the eastern German state of Saxony has full vaccination rates of only around 56 percent, and an infection rate more than twice as high as...

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From the Right
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OPINION

Published July 16, 2021: There’s no doubt that vaccination rates have hit a wall of skepticism: 48.5 percent of the population is fully vaccinated, and 56.1 percent have had at least one dose of the vaccine. This is consistent with opinion surveys earlier this year showing roughly 40 percent of the public as wary or skeptical about the vaccines. A wave of outreach has begun to get vaccination rates up further, especially in light of the spread of the Delta variant. Some states have tried lotteries, in which people who get vaccinated are entered...

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From the Left
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OPINION

Decades ago I helped organize a conference that brought together vaccine skeptics and public health officials. The debate centered on what governments can and cannot demand from citizens, and what behaviors one can rightly expect from others.

It took place many years before the current coronavirus pandemic, but many things that happened at that conference remind me of our circumstances today. Not least, as a political theorist who also studies social ethics, it reminds me that arguments grounded in self-interest can often be correct – but still deeply inadequate.

I recall...

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