RATES OF COVID-19 vaccination in this country are too low. Less than half of those over 65 have received a second booster and ,among children under 5, the rate of vaccination with any dose is in the single digits. Uptake of the new bivalent booster is worryingly slow, with just 31 million Americans (10.1 percent of those eligible) having received it despite the Biden administration having ordered over 170 million doses. In a recent poll by the Kaiser Family Foundation, only a third of adults said they had received the new booster or planned to.
Perhaps we should have expected this for COVID. After all, these are novel vaccines that were developed and rolled out under highly politicized conditions. But childhood vaccination rates for other conditions, including influenza, polio, and measles, are dropping as well, suggesting that people who would have vaccinated their children in the past are starting to think differently about vaccines. In addition to being a critical public health concern, this represents a serious issue with trust in public health authorities and their messengers. And it is these “science communicators” who need to take ownership of their messaging failures and fix the problem before it is too late.To be clear, misinformation surrounding vaccines has had a damaging impact on vaccine acceptance. Claims that have absolutely no basis in reality, such as the presence of microchips in the formula, or the ability of the vaccine to make you magnetic, somehow gained traction among a proportion of Americans who believe those lies. Certainly, there also was already a base of true “anti-vaxxers” – often naturopathy-inclined politically left-leaning people in the years before COVID-19 vaccines came on the scene, and primarily far right-wing followers of Donald Trump since COVID vaccines became available.
But it cannot be true that the over 90 percent of parents of children between the ages of 6 months and 5 years who haven’t opted into vaccination are anti-vaxxers, or even that they have fallen prey to nefarious misinformation spreaders. The messaging from public health authorities, government officials and doctors and scientists like us who speak to the media is simply not working. What could we do better?
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|CommonWealth Magazine: "Time to come clean about COVID-19"|
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