Around this time last year, I wrote about how government restrictions on Thanksgiving celebrations are futile because only a few people will follow them and are unlikely to be enforced. This year, we should be thankful that no such restrictions exist now that vaccines are available. So long as everyone is vaccinated, we can all get together again without having to worry about someone being a superspreader.
Unfortunately, there are a significant number of people who are voluntarily unvaccinated for a number of reasons.
Due to the spread of COVID-19 primarily among the unvaccinated, governments and business have imposed vaccine mandates or are considering it. Those who don’t comply will lose their jobs. While many have complied, others have resigned and protested.
While I believe everyone should be vaccinated, the purpose of my column today is not to force or shame people into getting vaccinated. I just want to briefly share my thoughts on some of the reasons (scientific and otherwise) why people don’t want to get the COVID vaccine. I am hoping that some of them after reading this will do their own research and reevaluate their position for their own health and others.
Some people are anti-vaccine because of personal experience. They or someone they know got sick due to the side effect of a vaccine. Or worse, they became permanently disabled or died. The problem with these people is that they try to influence public policy based on their negative personal experiences.
I understand and I sympathize. I didn’t have a good experience with the two Moderna vaccines I received. For some reason, after getting the second shot, I had lower back pain which did not go away for a long time. Let’s just say I was not as excited as I was before about getting the booster shot. Regardless, it was a much better experience compared to being positive for COVID last year.
Just because I had a bad experience with the vaccine doesn’t mean others will have the same experience. Everyone is different due to their genetics, environment, general health conditions, etc.
Another argument against vaccines is that they did not control the spread of COVID-19. There was a recent report from the Centers for Disease Control that the number of U.S. COVID-19 deaths recorded in 2021 has surpassed the toll in 2020. In addition, COVID-19 cases were rising even in places with high vaccination rates.
But most of the cases came from the unvaccinated. Yes, there are some fully vaccinated people who also tested positive. But almost all of them were not hospitalized.
Another argument is that the vaccines only got emergency approval from the Food and Drug Administration and some are hesitant to get it until it gets full FDA approval. While I won’t discuss the FDA approval process, it seems to be common knowledge that the FDA “fully” approves a drug after many years of testing due to the extensive clinical trials required. However, there are accelerated approval processes available. Whether the drug gets expedited treatment will depend on whether there is an unmet medical need. So far, it seems like the expedited approval of the COVID-19 vaccines worked well.
Here is something for the unvaccinated to think about. For those who are hospitalized, the only recognized treatment for severe COVID-19 symptoms is a drug called Remdesivir. However, this drug is experimental and has not received full FDA approval. But I seriously doubt people facing a ventilator are going to refuse it because it’s not fully FDA approved. They will take it even if they put themselves at risk to adverse side effects.
Now I want to turn the non-science-based argument against taking the vaccine. Specifically, the argument that getting the vaccine should be a personal choice. The general claim is that people should be free to make their own medical decisions.
I can appreciate a person wanting control when it comes to health care. For example, if someone likes their doctor, they should be allowed to keep their doctor. But this important decision should be made based on correct information. Did they get their information from their personal physician? Or from a social media influencer who is selling her magic COVID beans for $59.95 plus shipping and handling?
Almost every health care expert will agree on the general effectiveness of vaccines. And consider that most politicians who are against vaccine mandates are themselves vaccinated. So if a person is going to make a decision that goes against this consensus, they should have a scientifically good reason for doing so. Only a few will have a good reason.
As for the rest? I suspect they are motivated by something other than being pro-choice. They are angry because they were kicked out of a business (and publicly humiliated in the process) for not wearing a mask. Or this is their way of protesting the current government’s policies. Or they just get along better with their anti-vaxxer friends.
Whatever this ulterior motive is, I don’t think potentially putting their life in danger and spreading the virus to others is the right way to fight the power. By getting vaccinated, they will live long enough to vote in the next election.
To understand how good Americans have it, take a look at how other countries are handling the vaccine rollout. There are some countries where demand for vaccines exceed the supply available. Or they don’t have the medical infrastructure to distribute the vaccine to everyone quickly. I wonder what the people in these countries have to say about personal choice or whether they will care if their health ministry has approved the vaccines for use in their country.
Unfortunately, vaccine mandates have led to protests and resignations. At some point, the government and businesses will have no other choice but to enforce the mandate. But before it gets to that, there should be an effort to convince the unvaccinated to change their ways. While this won’t convince everyone, if enough people can be persuaded to get the vaccine, we can continue to live like normal and maybe, just maybe, achieve herd immunity a year from now.
Steven Chung is a tax attorney in Los Angeles, California. He helps people with basic tax planning and resolve tax disputes. He is also sympathetic to people with large student loans. He can be reached via email at email@example.com. Or you can connect with him on Twitter (@stevenchung) and connect with him on LinkedIn.