He has been pushed out of Facebook and banned from Twitter, but Larry Cook continues to fight on StopMandatoryVaccination.com, where the Los Angeles man tries to explain why COVID-19 vaccines are evil and why President Donald Trump – which he insists on , will return to power – got one anyway.
Some evangelical Christians link the vaccines to Satan, the Beast mark, and an impending apocalypse.
And in the sunny Surf City, Huntington Beach Mayor Pro Tem Tito Ortiz refuses to wear a mask and defiantly declares, “I’m not taking that vaccine – hell no!”
As tens of thousands of millions of people rush to be vaccinated and squeeze the pandemic, hesitation falls in the hardest hit communities. A recent poll by the nonprofit Kaiser Family Foundation showed that 55% of black adults said they had been vaccinated or planned to be soon, a 14 percentage point increase from February. Ninety-one percent of Latinos and 64% of whites said the same thing.
“It’s one thing to say you do not want a vaccine when it has only been out for four weeks and you still cannot get it,” said Andrew Noymer, an epidemiologist and demographer at UC Irvine who studies infectious diseases. . “It’s different when we have six months of data and you see people’s toes not falling off when they get the shots.”
Still, 13% of respondents said they would still refuse vaccines. Republicans and white evangelical Christians were most likely to avoid shootings, with nearly 30% of each group saying they “certainly would not” be vaccinated.
Public health experts have never seen such a political stratification over a health crisis and find it deeply disturbing. This irreconcilability can pose a threat by letting the virus continue to circulate – and mutate – into more virulent forms that could endanger everyone, they said.
“The extent to which this particular vaccine, this particular disease, is perceived very differently depending on which political party you are in – it is, to my knowledge, unprecedented and regrettable,” said Arthur L. Reingold, president of California Vaccine Safety. review panel and head of epidemiology and biostatistics at UC Berkeley.
“The vaccines are safe and effective, and the benefits far, far, far outweigh any risk. This will make it difficult to reach the level of vaccination and immunity in many societies that we in public health want. ”
If 80% to 85% of the population needs to be vaccinated or has been infected to achieve “herd immunity” – where the virus essentially erupts in the absence of new hosts – vaccine skeptics may be contributing to a real problem.
“When you think back to last summer, it was the Republicans who were all excited about the vaccine and the Democrats who were all worried about it,” said Kevin Schulman, a professor of medicine at Stanford University. “We should never let public health become a political issue, but the fact that we have turned these ties around suggests that they are not so ingrained.”
Efforts to reach skeptics may have been delayed in earnest with a $ 24 million ad purchase with powerful Ad Council stains depicting a grandmother’s first visit with her grandchildren and triumphant scenes from sporting events. “The COVID-19 vaccines are here. … It’s up to you, ”says tags at the end of the spots.
Social media sites launch anti-vaccine evangelists from their platforms – on Facebook, a search for Cook’s StopMandatoryVaccination page provides a list of reputable sources of vaccine information as well as “Stop mandatory vaccination by Larry Cook is a #FakeNews site” and the prominent anti-wax activist Robert F. Kennedy Jr. has been banned by Instagram and other fake information trading platforms.
But outlandish ideas are still circulating. The vaccines insert a chip into your body so the government can track all your movements. They make you infertile. They change your DNA. They give you COVID.
Some prominent evangelical leaders have been preaching the virtues of vaccines for months in an attempt to address ridiculous misconceptions, such as “Jesus would not let the virus harm them in a church.”
“God revealed much of His will when He gave you that brain. And he expects you to use it, ”said Rick Warren, pastor of Saddleback Church, in a training for religious leaders on how to approach COVID-19 with their flocks.
Hardcore “anti-waxxers”, as they are called, are actually a fairly small community that looks bigger because of all the publicity it attracts and its skilled manipulation of social media, said John Swartzberg, clinical professor emeritus in the Department of Infectious Diseases diseases. & Vaccinology at UC Berkeley. For these people, there is nothing that anyone can say or do to change their mind.
But many hesitant people – a much larger group than the anti-waxes – have good reason to be hesitant, he said. Some are simply waiting for more data on efficacy and risks. Others have a history of abuse and neglect from the health care system. Some have heard rumors of chips and infertility, and others distrust Big Pharma.
“I think this is the group that we really need,” Swartzberg said. “Without those who are vaccine-hesitant, it will be difficult to get enough people immunized to get to see any kind of herd immunity.”
Stanford’s Schulman thinks of the spread of the vaccine as a product launch, just as Apple launches a new iPhone.
“Apple would spend a year thinking about how to communicate its message, and at the end of the day, if they get 30% of the population to buy an iPhone, they would be excited,” he said. “This is the most important product launch of our lifetime – and we need to reach 85% of the market share, not 30. It’s really important for us to get ahead of this.”
Ken Williams is an osteopath and longtime member of the Orange County Board of Education, who sued the state last year for allowing “in-the-seat” learning on campuses. As a doctor, he was one of the first to offer the vaccine and was happy to fill out the paperwork – until he came to a box office where he said he agreed to share his information with the state.
He did not check the box. So he did not get the shot.
Since then, Williams signed up for Orange County’s vaccine planning app, Othena, and has received both shots. Othena did not have that box, he said.
“The hesitation returns to distrust of the government,” he said. “I do not think it matters who is in government. On January 6, we had the Capitol tragedy, which was terrible, so we have had political divisions over the last many months, with the Biden administration seeing the pandemic as a great opportunity to reset society. ”
The decline in family play and the rise in corporate medicine has not helped, he said. “The primary care physician has been pushed to the side and you do not know who the hell is giving you the injections at CVS, Walgreens, Walmart. Patients no longer go to the doctors they trust for these services. ”
The Kaiser Family Foundation found that about half of those in the “wait-and-see” group said they would be more likely to be vaccinated if the jab was offered under a routine medical appointment.
Williams is trying to steer his patients toward vaccination. He tells them that they have the right to postpone – but they should weigh the consequences, which include infection, permanent injury and death. Or they could take the vaccine and get the benefits of immunity.
Saddleback pastor Warren and his wife, Kay, did just that in January. But after Kay Warren tweeted that they had received their COVID-19 vaccines, she was inundated with hundreds of disgusting attacks.
Rick Warren, at the helm of the Mega Church, has preached that wearing masks and vaccination are ways to love your neighbor as you love yourself. In an online seminar with Francis Collins, director of the National Institutes of Health, the men said Christ would call us to be healers and do everything possible to preserve life. Warren wrote a rap song about COVID for children, and a website that addresses evangelical issues can be found at www.christiansandthevaccine.com.
Experts say using people like Warren and Williams is a way to turn the tide.
Schulman and co-author Stacy Wood published “Beyond Politics – Promoting Covid-19 Vaccination in the United States” in the New England Journal of Medicine in February. It contains 12 strategies for overcoming hesitation – including “Finding a Common Enemy.” It would be the virus, not each other.
Kaiser found that the most compelling information to share with skeptics was that the vaccines are almost 100% effective in preventing hospitalization and death, that researchers have been working with the technology used in the new vaccines for 20 years, and that they are free.
Skeptics are likely to become more willing if vaccination is required to travel or go to work. But it is important to be realistic: “We do not get 100% admission. We are not getting it for any vaccine, ”said UC Riversides Carpiano.
It is understandable that people hesitate, said Berkeley’s Swartzberg. “This is new and something is being put into your body and it feels scary,” he said. “But when we see tens of thousands of millions of people being vaccinated and not falling dead or being hospitalized with COVID, it will be a very strong message. I’m optimistic. ”