The idea of “vaccine hesitancy” is a relatively new phenomenon in our country.
For those of the Baby Boom generation, there never was any question about getting shots for all kinds of childhood and adult communicable diseases.
Vaccines, along with antibiotics, were universally accepted as wonders of modern medicine that chiefly were responsible for the increase in longevity and decrease in misery both in the U.S. and in populations around the globe.
However, the rise of baseless conspiracy theories and adherence to senseless political conformity, all of which have been amplified by unscrupulous voices on social media (including Russian disinformation), have combined to increase vaccine hesitancy to record levels during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Polls show that vaccine hesitancy spans all ages, educational backgrounds, social strata, political affiliations, and employment status.
In addition, the success of vaccines in bringing about the dramatic reduction in deaths from COVID-19 over the past two months has bred its own sense of complacency. With the pandemic on the decline and hospitalizations near zero in some places, the need to get vaccinated may seem less urgent than when the pandemic was at its peak.
However, there are three basic facts that make vaccine hesitancy a dangerous mindset both for individuals and for society at large.
First and foremost, the coronavirus still is infecting thousands and killing hundreds of Americans each and every day. Though the numbers in the U.S. are far below the peak from January, they still are unfathomably high.
In addition, across the globe, the virus is wreaking havoc from India to Brazil, where a lack of vaccines is ensuring that record numbers of people are dying every day. Vaccination is the only means by which transmission of this dread disease can be halted.
Second, all of the coronavirus vaccines being administered in the U.S. are both incredibly effective and incredibly safe. Any suggestions otherwise are being spread by self-serving groups who have no concern for the health of Americans, individually and collectively.
Finally, if enough Americans fail to get the vaccine and the virus continues to spread and mutate, the new variants may evade the protection of the vaccines, thereby establishing a vicious cycle in which we always will be a step behind and which ultimately will affect the economy.
Too many of our fellow Americans have died, too many lives have been upended, and too many of our front-line workers have made incredible sacrifices, to allow the progress we have made in fighting the COVID-19 pandemic to take a step backwards because of baseless claims that underpin “vaccine hesitancy.”
The simple reality is this: Mass vaccination is the only means by which we can defeat the virus and return to a semblance of normalcy. Both the public and private sectors need to do whatever is necessary to ensure that each and every American receives a shot — and we urge all of our readers to do what they need to do in order to get the vaccine.