We judge few people as harshly as those who do not want to be vaccinated. When nursing home workers have cold feet, they immediately drop in our esteem from “care hero” to “science denier.” At the same time, a bit of hesitation is understandable at this stage.
The RNA vaccines are based on brand new technology; only tens of thousands of people have been vaccinated so far. Compare that to polio or measles vaccine with which billions were vaccinated (difference of five zeros). Immediate rare side effects are unknown, and nothing is known about their long-term consequences.
In Britain, two vaccines unexpectedly developed a severe allergic reaction, which had not been identified in the studies. The authorities were forced to adjust the advice. With that other new type of vaccine, the adenoviruses, everything turned out not to run smoothly, with the result that some of the test subjects were vaccinated with too low a dose.
It will not be the last vaccination with mishaps and irregularities.
I’ve learned a little bit about vaccination madness over the past year. Not because I have started to look at vaccines differently, but because I find the magnifying glass on the small group of people who have a “wrong idea” regarding the National Immunization Program exaggerated in a country with a measles vaccination rate of 93 percent.
Professor Bernice Hausman calls this “Wrong thinking” in her refreshing yet hermetically academic book Anti / VAX. She shows that with the rise in vaccination coverage in the United States from 1995 onwards, hatred and aggressive language towards refusers and doubters have also increased.
At a time when science is just about the only remaining authority, science denial is a crime. Vaccine refusers are subjected to cognitive and psychological examination to determine which defect is responsible for that irrational behavior.
While the choice to vaccinate is often irrational, a choice that stems from habit, education, good citizenship, trust in the authorities, and in the anonymous mega corporations that deliver the vaccines. Those who do get vaccinated usually have little knowledge about vaccination. Those who hesitate or refuse the shot usually have little experience, but they are accused of rejecting facts and science.
It does happen that people have a completely different reality, but it seems rare. Those conspiracy theories, filter bubbles, echo chambers, rabbit holes, and fake news that Silicon Valley algorithms would keep us trapped in do not seem to have much of an impact on vaccination coverage.
Research in England shows that conspiracy theories and fear of vaccinations were not the cause of the decline in measles vaccinations. The doctor’s phone call, the standard way to get a vaccine in England, was just very low on the priority list.
Meanwhile, the “anti-vaxxers” are increasingly portrayed as a great danger. And that while few are engaged in the critical monitoring of vaccine development. Today’s tone is reassuring, soothing, and sometimes downright mocking when legitimate questions are asked about vaccine safety.
Even though I still have those reflexes myself, I have decided not to participate in them anymore. I hope and expect excellent investigative journalism into AstraZeneca’s manufacturing problems and the research and reality differences with the Pfizer vaccine. We deserve that.
One more thing. Vaccination is a choice, but not vaccinating is also a choice — with all the risks that that entails. Sixty people a day are currently dying from Covid-19, and 200 people are admitted with severe breathlessness. More than one in ten Dutch people has been infected with the virus to date.
If you are soon offered one of the rare vaccines, the risk you will be one of them will be minimal in the coming months. The choice is yours.