Infectious disease experts discuss vaccine hesitancy among Republican adults

Infectious disease experts discuss vaccine hesitancy among Republican adults
"COVID-19 Vaccine Here" sign (Source: WVIR)

CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (WVIR) - For months, we’ve shared messages from doctors and scientists, and covered town halls, all about addressing vaccine hesitancy among communities of color. It seems those conversations have helped - but more may need to be had.

New surveys are showing, now, other groups are hesitant to get their shots.

A March survey from the Kaiser Family Foundation found that among Republican adults, 29% say they “definitely will not” get the vaccine. For white evangelical Christians, it’s 28%.

“I think that we’re all, at heart, altruistic,” said Bill Petri, who studies infectious diseases at the University of Virginia. “We want to help other people and gosh what better opportunity to be helpful to other people than to yourself be vaccinated.”

Petri says nearly 100% of UVA’s medical students have gotten vaccinated. That could show an effective way to preach the vaccine’s safety is to simply share knowledge with people you know and trust.

“If you are in a situation where there [are] people who have vaccine hesitancy, speak out in a respectful way as far as ‘here are the reasons that I’ve been vaccinated,’” he said.

He went on to say it may be more effective if that message is coming from a person within your community.

“It would be difficult for me, for example, as a white male to be going to a Black community and be as convincing as, maybe Wes Bellamy would be.”

Infectious disease doctor Patrick Jackson says he hopes more people want to get vaccinated because it can also help those who can’t.

“There are going to be some people in the population who are unable to get vaccinated,” Jackson said. “For example, people who have compromised immune systems or transplants.”

As Jackson tells everyone, data on the vaccine’s safety can be the ‘good news’ story of a tough year.

“There really has been nothing else that has gone this well,” he said. “I mean, shipping through the Suez Canal - not going so hot. But the vaccine data every time you get a new study coming out there it looks just on the far side of what I would have believed in my most optimistic assessment of what to expect.”

Jackson also says getting vaccinated is “the best way of preventing additional variants of COVID-19 from emerging.” He also says he hopes that the survey is an example of people who “may emphasize some of their political beliefs” in their responses, but “hopefully will act in a different way.”

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