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Understanding why some still refuse to get a COVID-19 vaccine

Published: Jul. 26, 2021 at 10:31 PM CDT
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NEW ORLEANS (WVUE) - Chances are you know someone-- whether a close friend or maybe even a family member-- who doesn’t want to get vaccinated. Doctors say they’re hearing a range of reasons why people won’t get the COVID-19 shot.

Doctors are seeing more unvaccinated COVID-19 patients come to the hospital, and say more education is needed to help people understand how the vaccines work.

“This one is just like they made it yesterday, and they’re like, here just go ahead like we’re all a bunch of guinea pigs,” said New Orleans resident Camille Dobbins. “I work in a hospital so I don’t really have a choice. I’m steeped in it, but I can understand why the hesitation. I don’t even like getting my flu vaccine every year because it makes me sick.”

“I just don’t want to do it,” said another New Orleans resident. “I know people that are vaccinated and still getting the virus so I don’t understand the purpose of it.”

“She’s afraid,” said another of her unvaccinated friend. “She says it’s not enough research yet.”

Whatever the reason may be, only 36.5 percent of people in Louisiana are fully vaccinated against COVID-19. Louisiana has one of the worst vaccination rates in the country.

“There increasingly seems to be an anti-science mindset in many that might make a person afraid to follow the recommendations of the doctors,” said Dr. Rahn Bailey, chair of the Department of Psychiatry at LSU Health, and Assistant Dean of Admissions for the LSU School of Medicine.

He said this way of thinking is problematic for many reasons. One is the ease of sharing misinformation. He said it’s causing people to not trust science.

“You gotta get the message out, educate the community and get persons to not be afraid of healthcare information and recommendations,” he said.

Dr. Bailey said what works best is prevention, rather than waiting until “after you get the illness and then getting a pill to make it go all away.”

As to why people chose not to get vaccinated, Allison Guste, Assistant Vice President of Clinical and Operational Excellence with LCMC Health said it’s a tough question to answer. She said there’s a lot of misinformation.

“We see all kinds of variation among reasons for people not getting vaccinated,” said Guste.

The common reasons she hears from patients are:

- The COVID vaccine will alter my DNA.

“I think one of the big questions you hear is will the COVID-19 vaccine alter my DNA? That’s one of those kind of more politicized reasons that we hear frequently,” she said. “It never enters the nucleus and that’s where our DNA is kept and that’s the scientific reason we can give to debunk that myth.”

- The vaccine will cause infertility issues.

“So scientific evidence tells us ‘No.’ That there is no risk of decreasing your fertility or miscarriage due to the COVID-19 vaccine,” said Guste. “This was a huge social media scare.” She said there’s currently no information or science that would tell us if the COVID-19 vaccine causes any problems with fertility “including the development of the placenta or even miscarriage in current pregnancies. There’s no evidence that male or female fertility problems would be an effect of the vaccine.”

- I don’t trust the speed at which the vaccine was developed.

Guste said the mRNA science behind the COVID vaccine has been around for nearly two decades and is used in cancer research. She said funding and resources that went into the development of a COVID-19 vaccine were greater than any other vaccine because of the emergent need for a preventative measure.

She said vaccine studies were not skipped and safety protocols were not altered.

“COVID-19 is an emergent worldwide pandemic. And that really called for an emergent worldwide response,” she said.

- I’ll wait for the rest to get vaccinated and I’ll get herd immunity.

“It’s not just about protecting you, it’s also about protecting others,” she said. “Vaccine-preventable diseases are spread person-to-person.”

- I’ve already had COVID so I’m protected.

“Even if you had COVID-19 before, we can’t actually prove how long your natural immunity lasts to the actual virus itself,” said Guste. “What we are seeing is that people with COVID before can be reinfected with COVID again, so it’s just as important for you if you’ve had COVID-19 to get vaccinated. We’re thinking vaccine immunity is lasting longer than the natural immunity.”

She said the science does not support any of these claims.

Both health officials agree, there is nothing logical about skipping the vaccine. In fact, they said the risks of getting COVID-19 far outweigh the benefits of not getting it all.

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