Jody Vance: Patience with vaccine hesitancy is waning for good reason – but more than ever, we need to convince the holdouts to lend a hand…or arm.
Watching The Pandemic of the Unvaccinated unfold in other countries is terrifying. And yet at the same time, it’s also real world data that solidifies an undeniable fact: vaccines work.
Canada leads the world with percentage of the population with at least one dose. This week we will hit the 66 million dose milestone that delivers that “every Canadian has access” promise from months ago.
Here in BC immunization uptake is impressive. We are killing it. And by “it,” I mean “COVID.”
That said, there are tens of thousands in this province either unable to be vaccinated, hesitant, or unwilling to accept the science.
Vaccines are the proven path towards any semblance of normalcy. No, COVID is not going away — our work is not done. It’s on us (all of us) to make it manageable moving forward.
So with that in mind, this Middle is about how we help the hesitant get protected – and thus protect us.
I’m worried about the unvaccinated in BC. We must try to help bring facts to those who’ve gone down a rabbit hole of fear.
We must talk about our goals here:
- Prevent sickness and death.
- Prevent overwhelming our healthcare system.
- Prevent societal disruption.
- Protect those who genuinely cannot be immunized.
The next phase of COVID is to balance our pandemic response between those pillars of prevention. The good news is that we won’t go back to across-the-board restrictions; the bad news is for the unvaccinated – they’re likely the ones who should expect to be impacted. Where outbreaks happen — meaning likely the unvaccinated — will be the slice of society getting shut down.
Should we expect a national vaccine passport? Perhaps. Proof of vaccination being required in our day-to-day? Possibly. Restrictions as to how the unvaccinated move through society in some settings? Highly likely.
Those prospects makes some viscerally angry. But there is a choice to live unrestricted: get immunized.
If you’re at your wit’s end with disinformation from anti-vaxxers in your family or circle of friends, you are not alone.
From radio callers, to text messages from friends, from conversation at the next patio table, to the flood of DMs, it’s clear that many in BC continue to be vaccine hesitant.
If we want to put COVID-19 in our rearview mirror, they represent our next collective challenge. How to help strangers and loved ones alike find the facts in the face of almost a constant storm of disinformation, particularly on social media.
How does one handle the anti-vaxx family member at gatherings? It’s complicated, but a very real part of our reopening.
It’s important to try to help often scared individuals with finding facts. Help the needle-phobe navigate the anxiety of not one but TWO injections.
Collectively cooling the rhetoric is a great way to start – while being clear that the goal is to not herd anyone anywhere, much less a vaccine clinic – but to convince everyone that vaccinations aren’t a plot, are safe, and the only way back to normality.
When there is a stand-off, pivot. Pivot! Meet hesitancy with kindness; perhaps engage another trusted voice or book a date with the family physician to talk it through. Gently.
It’s not all purposeful ignorance. Smart, engaged and caring people can absolutely be sucked into the vortex, often in clusters of friend groups. It’s getting easier and easier for health officials to identify where these folks physically gather, through new test case positives and hospitalizations.
It is a choice to be immunized, but more and more there will be consequences.
There will be no room for “My mom says she’s heard the vaccine caused shingles!” — it does not.
Or “These mRNA vaccines change your DNA!” — patently untrue.
Huge swaths of society have waning patience for those who choose not to be part of the solution. The numbers do not lie: in BC hospitals 78% of those hospitalized with COVID-19 are unvaccinated, with a median age of 52 years old.
In other words, it’s not “the elderly.”
18% of those in hospital have had a first dose, with an average age of 62. Last, but certainly not least, those hospitalized who are fully immunized is 5% and the average age is 81.
According the BC’s Provincial Health Officer, Dr. Bonnie Henry, “There will be measures coming this fall” that will jolt the unvaccinated into the reality of their choice.
Perhaps these truths will help bring the few who’ve been hesitant to the clinic in time for what will likely be a challenging fall and winter. We are, as always, in this together.
Jody Vance is a born and raised Vancouverite who’s spent 30 years in both local and national media. The first woman in the history of Canadian TV to host her own sports show in primetime, since 2011 she’s been working in both TV and radio covering news and current affairs.
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