Why Are Some People Apathetic About The COVID-19 Vaccine?

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We’ve all heard about the two opposite ends of the vaccine spectrum: those who couldn’t get vaccinated fast enough and those who won’t get vaccinated at all costs. But what about those who land somewhere in the middle? The ones who aren’t worried about vaccine safety—or about contracting COVID-19. Why aren’t they getting vaccinated?

“This group of people may not realize that getting vaccinated doesn’t only benefit them, but it benefits their entire community,” says Dennis Cunningham, M.D., medical director of infection control and prevention at Henry Ford Health System. “Vaccines are the key to ending the COVID-19 pandemic. Even if you don’t think you need to get vaccinated to protect yourself, consider your loved ones and vulnerable members of your community who could get sick if you unknowingly pass it to them. To reach herd immunity, the majority of the population needs to be vaccinated.”

Here, reasons people give for not getting vaccinated—and why they should.

  1. If I get side effects from the vaccine, I’ll have to take a day off work. People experience varying levels of side effects, from none at all to injection-site pain, body aches, fatigue, chills, and a fever. They should go away within 24 to 48 hours. Taking one to two days off work is much less time you’d have to take than if you contract COVID-19—in which case you’d have to take at least 10 days off to quarantine, regardless of how you feel. You can also strategically schedule your vaccine appointment for the night before your day off so you can stay home and rest. However, 98% of people with vaccine side effects have been able to continue working and participate in their usual daily activities.  
  2. COVID-19 is just like the flu—it’s no big deal. While COVID-19 and the flu are both respiratory viruses, that’s where their similarities end. COVID-19 leads to a more serious illness and is much more contagious than the flu. “Last fall, when there were strict social distancing and mask-wearing protocols, we virtually had no flu season,” says Dr. Cunningham. “But COVID-19 cases were prevalent. That just shows how much more contagious COVID-19 is than the flu.”    
  3. I’m young and healthy, so I don’t need to get vaccinated. I won’t get sick. “In general, older people are more likely to have a worse outcome from COVID-19, but this isn’t the rule,” says Dr. Cunningham. “Many young, healthy people have gotten incredibly sick and have landed in the ICU.” Plus, even if you remain asymptomatic or have a mild case, you can endure long-haul COVID-19 symptoms. Brain fog, fatigue, headaches, loss of smell and taste, and heart damage can be experienced for months after the virus has cleared the body.
  4. There are few restrictions now, so I can go where I want without having to wear a mask. The fact that public places are open again and safety protocols have been relaxed is even more reason to get vaccinated. If fewer people are wearing masks, and people aren’t social distancing, there’s a higher chance you could contract COVID-19 and transmit it to vulnerable people. (Especially with the new Delta variant, which seems to be even more contagious than the original strain of COVID-19.)
  5. I don’t have health insurance, so I can’t get the COVID-19 vaccine. Thankfully, in the United States, the COVID-19 vaccine is free and available to all who want it, even those without health insurance. Find a COVID-19 vaccination clinic near you.
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Still need your COVID-19 vaccine? Schedule an appointment at Henry Ford.  

Dr. Dennis Cunningham is the medical director of infection control and prevention at Henry Ford Health System.  

Categories: FeelWell