“The hesitancy will begin to become the defining factor and whether we reach herd immunity or not — that doesn’t give us a lot of time,” says Dr. Francis Collins
Source: Jamie White
National Institute of Health Director Francis Collins is sounding the alarm about the high number of people still hesitant to take the COVID-19 vaccine.
In an extensive Saturday interview with The Hill, Collins first explained that blacks, Christians, and Republicans are the main groups who are most skeptical to receive the vaccine for different reasons.
Collins said blacks “have their reasons to be somewhat doubtful” of the vaccine due to the infamous Tuskegee experiment, Christians have the “fetal tissue issue” with vaccines, and half of Republican men believe there’s a political “agenda” tied to the vaccine.
“In every instance what I’ve learned is if somebody says they’re hesitant, the first thing I want to know is, ‘tell me about that’,” Collins said. “‘Tell me what it is that has you troubled. Is it the conspiracy theories you’ve been hearing? And there’s plenty of those out there on social media. Is it your concern about safety issues not having been fully addressed? Is it some other factor that’s in there?’ And there’s no single, I think, best response until you’ve listened to hear what the basis of the hesitancy is and that person.”
Collins then claimed that the vaccine skepticism among these groups, particularly Republicans, must be addressed in the next couple of months as the vaccines become widely available.
“Because we are approaching the point where we will have a sufficient supply of vaccines for everybody in the United States to have the chance to get immunized by the end of May,” he said. “And so the hesitancy will begin to become the defining factor and whether we reach herd immunity or not. That doesn’t give us a lot of time. We’re down to a little over two months to try to do the listening and also then the responding.”
Collins, a physician-geneticist first picked to head the NIH in 2009 by Obama, said the best way to convince people to take the vaccine is to get respected members of the community, like pastors and doctors, to promote the vaccine more, not politicians or celebrities.
“So that means the doctors out there in the community,” Collins explained. “It’s interesting when you see that something like 95 percent of doctors are getting vaccinated, that tells you they believe that this is a good thing and the more they can be explicit about that, the more helpful that will be in getting the message across that this really is safe and effective.”
“We just have to get the word in front of people coming from voices that don’t appear to have some conflict,” he continued. “And the government, in many people’s minds and our current fracturing situation, will appear to have a conflict of interest. So will industry. So better to have the voices coming from other sources.”
Collins said another tactic is to guilt-trip people into taking the vaccine for the sake of their friends and family’s health.
“And then one other thing I think we do have to be clear about is the vaccination, while it is a great benefit to the person, it’s also a benefit to the rest of the community,” Collins said. “By declining vaccination, you’re not just declining something for yourself, you’re potentially putting other people at risk around you by being that asymptomatic super-spreader that could cause a lot of harms to occur.”
Collins admitted he used to think vaccine skeptics were “stupid”, but then says he realized people have their “addressable” reasons and could still be convinced.
“I must say, I initially, I found this [skepticism] sort of hard to understand and probably that response was coming across, that sort of disbelief, which can be translated into, ‘what are you, stupid?’ And that was not helpful. I’ve really evolved to the point of recognizing there are plenty of reasons why thoughtful serious people may be having reservations, but they are addressable,” he said.
Notably, Collins was the individual who lifted the moratorium on gain-of-function research on coronaviruses in 2017 because he said it was “important in helping us identify, understand, and develop strategies and effective countermeasures against rapidly evolving pathogens that pose a threat to public health.”
This comes as companies like Krispy Kreme and strips clubs attempt to incentivize people to take the COVID vaccine, while polls continue to show that a staggering 30% of all Americans have no intention of getting the jab.
How will the government respond once it becomes clear that millions of American won’t get the vaccine, no matter what?