An abundance of caution sounds good when regulators and governors use it to withdraw a vaccine that might have a bad side effect, but an abundance of caution on the part of people who could be receiving vaccines frustrates West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice.
Last week Justice called on the 650,000 eligible West Virginians who have not been vaccinated to step forward and get their shots.
“I don’t get it. Why are we not finishing this thing up?” Justice said during Friday’s state COVID-19 briefing. “Why are we not finishing the race when the race is ours to win?”
As Justice acknowledged, the low-hanging fruit has been harvested. The state has reached the population that needed it most and the population that wanted it most. The problem lies in convincing unvaccinated people that it’s in their best interest to be vaccinated.
There are several reasons people could be reluctant to be vaccinated, and not all of them have to do with misinformation or the anti-vax movement. Here are a few:
Some people don’t trust the system that rushed so many vaccines to market so quickly. The withdrawal of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine certainly didn’t help bring the doubters over to the governor’s side. The one-in-a-million incidence of blood clots has received the most attention, but there are others. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says people who have received the J&J vaccine within the past three weeks and who develop severe headache, abdominal pain, leg pain or shortness of breath should seek medical care immediately.
The CDC’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices will meet April 23 to discuss whether the J&J vaccine should be returned to use.
Women who are pregnant or who may become pregnant must choose whether to take the vaccine. According to the CDC, “There are currently limited data on the safety of COVID-19 vaccines in pregnant people because these vaccines have not been widely studied in pregnant people. Systems are in place to continue to monitor vaccine safety, and so far, they have not identified any specific safety concerns for pregnant people. Clinical trials to evaluate the safety and efficacy of COVID-19 vaccines in pregnant people are underway or planned.”
The most important consideration for many people is whether they trust health officials who want to vaccinate as many people as possible as quickly as possible. COVID-19 quickly went from a health issue to a political one as governors and health departments assumed control over our personal and economic lives. Shutdowns, quarantines, mask mandates and other steps to slow the spread of the disease continue to annoy many people who question whether they were effective to begin with. Now the same health officials want people to accept a hastily developed vaccine.
If the governor wants to increase the vaccination rate, he will need to change his sales tactics.
If vaccinations are so beneficial, why are state offices and state employees still on lockdown? When will the public be allowed to set foot in the Capitol, and when will agencies such as the DMV return to normal speed? When will government offices be as accessible as the state expects grocery stores to be?
If the governor wants more people to volunteer to be vaccinated, he needs to lead by example and demonstrate his faith in the vaccine.