Why Americans Fear The COVID-19 Vaccine.

We were talking about this with one of our site ninjas yesterday.

The entire script of the video can be found here, but some of the highlights include:

Vaccines are the greatest health care advance of our time, preventing an estimated 4.5 billion infections since their advent. So what explains the reluctance of so many Americans to vaccinate?

It’s a combination of bad science, the government’s long history of misleading the public, and the collapse of confidence in public health authorities because of their catastrophic failures in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

But if the government responds by attempting to force Americans to take a COVID-19 vaccine, it will only help the conspiracy theorists. Public health officials can begin to undo the damage of the past six months by rejecting authoritarian and paternalistic approaches in favor of careful persuasion and brutal honesty about the limits of their own knowledge.

Though most Americans surveyed say they’ll probably take the vaccine, there’s a real possibility that a sizable bloc of refusers could allow this novel coronavirus to continue spreading, based on what’s happened with measles, cases of which surged to record levels in America in 2019 largely due to pockets of vaccine refusal, which tends to happen in clusters, according to researcher Tara C. Smith.


Smith says more humility is called for in public health communication.

“It’s hard, but I think we have to emphasize that uncertainty. And I think that may have been one thing missing with the [protective face] masks, and I was probably guilty of it myself, too,” says Smith.

One reason public health officials may face considerable resistance to a nationwide vaccination program is because of their handling of COVID-19.

After reversing their position on face masks, authorities claimed their earlier message was motivated by a desire to preserve protective gear for medical workers without ever acknowledging that they were wrong to say that masks wouldn’t slow the spread of the virus.

Public health authorities also issued contradictory messages on the safety of large gatherings following the Black Lives Matters protests.

The World Health Organization (WHO) failed to properly investigate the original outbreak in China, perhaps leaving the world less prepared than it should’ve been for the emerging pandemic; the Trump administration repeatedly played down the threat of the virus, and the CDC botched the early rollout of testing.


If there is any hope of winning back public trust in a vaccination program, which, unlike the 1973 swine flu vaccine, will have been subject to extensive safety testing, public health authorities should acknowledge their past mistakes.

“Right now, in the United States, people should not be walking around with masks,” the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases Director Anthony Fauci told 60 Minutes on March 8, 2020. “Wearing a mask might make people feel a little bit better, but it’s not providing the perfect protection people think that it is. And often, there are unintended consequences: People keep fiddling with the mask, and they keep touching their face[s].”

The CDC changed its mask guidance on April 3, 2020, to recommend wearing surgical or cloth masks in public settings, and businesses and local governments began mandating masks. When asked before Congress on June 30, 2020, whether he regretted his earlier statements about masks, Fauci failed to acknowledge that he and other public health officials had called masks ineffective and instead focused exclusively on the supply shortage health workers faced at the time.

“I don’t regret [not advising mask use] because, let me explain to you what happened: At that time [when public health officials didn’t advise wearing masks], there was a paucity of equipment that our health care providers needed,” Fauci said.


If warning against face masks was a so-called “noble lie” to preserve supplies for health care workers, public health officials should own up to that rationale, admit that their understanding of the transmissibility of virus was lacking, and stop condescending to the public.

And if a vaccine becomes available, doctors should acknowledge that vaccines can carry some risk, especially a new vaccine brought to market with record speed, but that it’s a risk often worth taking because there are no perfect solutions, only trade-offs.

The lesson of the last six months is that authoritarian mandates and noble lies tend to backfire.

Fact-based persuasion, which is the basis of good science, is our best hope for stopping COVID-19 and restoring the personal freedom that’s been eroded by the governmental and societal response to it.

One of our staff tells the story of their father who had never owned a new car in his life. Due to money concerns, he had always bought used cars, including a Chevrolet Bel Air from the 1950’s and a blue 1965 Chevrolet Impala. In the early 1970’s he bought a brand spanking new Buick Skylark. The car had everything he wanted and included something that none of the other cars he had owned ever had: seat belts.

Our staffer recounts that his mother and sister hated wearing seat belts. He liked them because he thought he was buckling up for a stock car race or something. But his mom and sister? Nope. No way.

He said that one day his father got tired of reminding and “demanding” that his sister and mother wear the belts.

His father got everyone in the car (with the staffer and his father buckled in) and pulled away from the curb. He was only doing about 5 – 10 miles an hour when he slammed on the brakes. The father and the staffer were fine, but his sister and mother went flying. No one was hurt.

After everyone had settled down, the father said “that’s why you wear seat belts.”

It was never an issue after that.

That was the “fact based persuasion” that this video talks about.

There will always be people on the fringe who won’t accept anything but will buy into wild conspiracies.

However, for the most part, the American people will accept and buy into “fact based persuasion.”

That buy-in takes trust which is sorely lacking right now in the US between citizens and the government at every level.

The time for governments to atone for that lack of trust is now – not later.


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