Sun | Jun 20, 2021

Garth Rattray | Why the fear of vaccines?

Published:Monday | June 7, 2021 | 12:05 AM

When this horrible SARS-CoV2 plague got loose upon the entire planet, I thought that people would do whatever it takes to protect themselves and others in order to get rid of it as quickly as possible and keep the number of victims and deaths to a minimum.

Well, I was very wrong. My expectations of the human race were terribly off course. Instead, many people focused on fabricated negativisms and would rather adhere tenaciously to the machinations of egocentric weirdos and risk dying horribly, than give scientific principles a try.

I was wrong for expecting the same cohort of people who refuse to take medication for the treatment and control of their deadly hypertension and diabetes, (because of an unreasonable fear of the possible but very rare, usually minor side effects of life-saving medications), to take the vaccine. They conveniently forget or totally ignore the fact that because of their age and co-morbidities, they, more than anyone else, need the vaccine.

I was naïve when I expected that those who harbour an unreasonable fear of any medication and injections, and/or resist distancing from others, hand sanitisation/washing and wearing a properly fitting mask, to readily accept vaccination. If the non-pharmaceutical interventions were followed, we would have beaten this thing. But people found every conceivable excuse to break the rules, and therefore transmit COVID-19. The vulnerable and unfortunate among us are suffering and sometimes dying horribly, all because of selfishness and a lack of self-discipline among many in society.

PERSUASION TACTICS

I’ve been having a very difficult time trying to convince patients and others to take the vaccine, any vaccine. It’s shocking to me that some of those very averse to vaccination are healthcare workers, patients with very serious health problems, and the frail and elderly that need the vaccines most of all. Shockingly, when I inquire why they fear vaccination against COVID-19, many invariably say, “People say this and that…”

I would love to see a poll about vaccine attitudes that goes something like this:

1. Have you heard about COVID-19? (yes/no) – If no, exclude from the poll.

2. Do you believe that COVID-19 is (a) less serious than the common flu? (b) just as serious as the common flu? (c) more serious than the common flu? – Exclude anyone who responds with (a) or (b).

3. Have you been partially vaccinated? If yes, jump to Q5.

4. Have you been fully vaccinated? If yes, exclude from the poll.

5. Do you plan to complete your vaccination regime? If yes, exclude from the poll.

6. Are you afraid of the vaccines? If no, proceed to the next question. If yes, go to Q8.

7. Your response to Q6 indicates that you do not believe that these vaccines work, why? (a) word on the street, (b) social media, (c) a gut feeling. Proceed to Q9.

8. What makes you believe that the vaccines are dangerous? (a) word on the street, (b) social media, (c) I am afraid of all vaccines. If (a) or (b), proceed. If (c), stop poll here.

9. Why do you choose to believe others and social media over scientists, doctors and the government? (a) scientists, doctors and the government are not well-informed and not usually truthful. (b) people and social media are well-informed and usually truthful.

10. Do you believe that anyone has died because of COVID-19 in Jamaica? Yes/No.

11. Do you believe that anyone has died because of the vaccine in Jamaica? Yes/No.

People have no credible basis for fearing the vaccine. Anti-vaxxers are putting all our lives at risk by influencing the fearful and uninformed. A poll should assist in helping us address those unfounded fears, getting more citizens vaccinated, reducing spread, saving innumerable lives, deterring variants, and getting us back to normal ASAP. Instead of griping about the restrictions, reduce our numbers by adhering to the anti-COVID rules and getting vaccinated.

Garth A. Rattray is a medical doctor with a family practice. Email feedback to columns@gleanerjm.com and garthrattray@gmail.com.