Addressing Fear of COVID-19 Vaccines

by Allecia Harley, MPH on February 16, 2021

Television news is filled with talk of the vaccine for COVID-19.  However, many people are afraid this vaccine was rushed through the process and did not receive enough oversight. They also believe it may be contaminated with tracking devices or be deadly. We are here to address the fear of the COVID-19 vaccines and how you can communicate to your friends, families, and employees.  

It’s true that we don’t know the long-term effects of the vaccines that are being released.  The clinical trials did move very quickly through the process. And science fiction is much more interesting to talk about than boring regulations to protect people from medical abuse. The fear of the COVID-19 vaccines are prominent in people of all races and ethnic backgrounds. 

Can We Trust This Vaccine

Given these challenges to gaining trust in a vaccine for COVID-19, there is an elephant in the room. The sordid history of ethical abuses by the United States government relative to injections. From hepatitis injections in mentally challenged children at Willowbrook School to LSD injections into an unknowing soldier in the US Army, to plutonium, polonium, and uranium injections in chronically ill hospital patients as a part of the Manhattan Project.  People have good reason to fear science fiction may enter real life, and the Black community is especially sensitive to the abuses from the National Institutes of Health in the Tuskegee Study.  

Acknowledging all of this history, we are facing the greatest public health crisis of our lifetimes. However, we cannot afford to let fear keep us from protecting the lives, health, and safety of millions of Americans—young and old.  

Addressing Your Concerns

If you want to help others get a better understanding of the vaccines and their development, below is some information to help. You won’t be able to change minds overnight, but you can address some of these concerns and give people comfort by sharing the following:

  1. Celebrate the successes: Summarize or highlight the protections for US citizens gained over the last 40 years in your writing, speaking, and social media posting.
  2. Give the back-story for the first two vaccines with emergency authorization from the FDA: 
    1. In December of 2019, the genetic sequence of the novel coronavirus, SARS-CoV-2 (that causes COVID-19) was uploaded to a public site before the second known death due to the virus.
    2. Existing vaccines for previous coronavirus outbreaks SARS-CoV (2003) and MERS-CoV (2012), gave scientists a leg up on where to start.
    3. The spike protein on SARS-CoV-2 is 80% similar to SARS-CoV from 2003, and medical researchers were prepared to target the spike protein on the outside of the virus, knowing that it triggers an effective immune response.
    4. Researchers from BioNTech and Moderna were laser-focused on using man-made mRNA biotechnology since the 1990s, and were developing cancer treatments.  The COVID-19 pandemic gave them a new disease on which to focus the technology.
  3. Fight fire with data: Share infographics and data on vaccination rates for your state (and if available, your county) with your employees and local communities. If you know people who participated in phase one of the vaccine distribution, reach out to them and ask them about their involvement.
  4. Be prepared: Share a few good points about how vaccines have saved lives from polio, measles, etc.
  5. Use the power of video: Interview local investigators, physicians, and clinical trial participants and now the people who have received their first and even second dose of the vaccine and allow them to share their experiences, any side effects, and how they feel about the overall experience.

Importance of Social Media

The communication approaches above are high impact and low cost.  In addition to social media, don’t forget to use your email lists and newsletters will help get the word out to those who need information.

Sharing stories, key data points, and relevant video of trusted medical experts will increase the level of comfort for some of your employees and community members. This may be an uphill battle overall, but any strides made to improve trust and mend relationships is time well spent.

Looking Towards the Future

As a bit of good news, data from February 16, 2021, shows that more than 52 million doses of vaccine have been administered across the US, roughly 1.67 million doses a day.  That means almost twice as many Americans have received at least one dose of vaccine than have tested positive for COVID-19. 

As stated previously, we are facing the greatest public health crisis of our lifetimes. We cannot afford to let the crimes of the past keep us from protecting the lives, health, and safety of millions of Americans, young and old. We must continue to address the fear of COVID-19 vaccines and be as transparent as possible.

If you would like to schedule a talk or training for your business or community, schedule a no-obligation consultation with Allecia: https://meetings.hubspot.com/aharley/no-obligation-consultation.  To learn more about our team and what we do, please visit our website: https://www.preventionadvisorygroup.com/.

Topics: #Covid-19, Healthcare