Stock photo by Pexels
As of mid-March in Michigan, just over 2 million people have been fully vaccinated, or just over 25 percent of the population. In the United States, about 113 million shots were given with 40 million, or over 12 percent of the population fully vaccinated. Worldwide, 400 million doses were given with over 91 million people fully vaccinated — over 1 percent of the population.
There’s another set of statistics, too: Nearly one in three people (over 30 percent of Americans) in the country said that they definitely or probably will not roll up their sleeves to receive the COVID-19 vaccine, according to a poll released in February by the Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research. There were varying results and reasons people explained that were at the root of their not being interested in receiving the inoculation.
The poll found that people ages 30-44, Republican voters and people who don’t have college degrees were among the most likely to say that they will not receive a COVID-19 vaccine when one becomes available to them, www.thehill.com reported.
Fifty-seven percent of Black Americans said they have received the vaccine or “definitely or probably” will get vaccinated, according to the poll. Sixty-eight percent of white survey respondents and 65 percent of Hispanic respondents felt the same.
.Among those who said they do not plan to receive the vaccine, 60 percent cited concerns over possible side effects. Forty-eight percent said that they “plan to wait and see if it is safe” and that they “may get it later.”
Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, has predicted that achieving herd immunity against the coronavirus could take as much as 90 percent of the population to be vaccinated. He has previously said that herd immunity could require upwards of 75 percent of the country to be vaccinated.
A couple of individuals spoke with The Michigan Chronicle recently about why they don’t want to receive the vaccine. One opted to answer the questions under a pseudonym, which is denoted below*.
Lisa Gee*, 50, of Detroit, said that she has “mixed emotions” about the vaccinations.
“My first thought was, the vaccinations were made at warp speed. What’s in it? Will we ever know?” Gee said, adding that she thinks about the Tuskegee Airmen example — a group of Black men (between the 1930s and 1970s) who had syphilis that was left untreated. They thought that they were under medical care receiving treatment when medical professionals were really monitoring how syphilis can ravage the body. The study was conducted by the United States Public Health Service and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Gee said that she is a typical Black woman trying to fight for what’s right.
“Every day you have to work twice as hard to have something. However, I have been blessed to walk this life as a business owner, helping people, traveling,” she said, adding that she has never been vaccinated. Two out of her three children are vaccinated.
She said that she continues praying and continues to wear her mask, stay six feet apart, and to be careful.
She added that she feels that the vaccines will eventually become mandatory, and while she does not openly tell people her stance on the COVID-19 vaccine, she tells them her opinion when they ask.
Southfield resident Leslie Love Smith-Thomas said that as a mother of two who works, she is hesitant to receive the vaccine.
“As far as the vaccination — I’ve never been one to really take medicine for myself and I usually do not get the flu shot,” she said, adding that she is watching the reactions of others around her who have taken the COVID-19 vaccine. “I do believe eventually I will get it over the summer.”
Smith-Thomas, who is a teacher at a local school district, said that her school is moving toward fully reopening and she feels that virtual learning might not be much of an option.
She added that the onus should not only be on teachers, but schools should improve their infrastructures and buildings and upgrade where needed including ventilation.
“That is a true concern I have — a lot of the buildings, the infrastructure is old,” she said.
When it comes to vaccine hesitancy, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan (BCBS) is addressing those concerns in Black communities and beyond after they recently established its Office of Health and Health Care Disparities, which aims to promote health equity and cultural competency in the delivery of health care, essential to achieving positive health outcomes for members.
In December 2020, BCBS established the Office of Health and Health Care Disparities to build upon the work of the Health and Health Care Disparities Team and begin to focus on developing interventions to tackle the disparities that are seen among BCBS members. The establishment of the Office is an opportunity for BCBS to do more and go deeper in ensuring that we understand and respond in a culturally competent way to meet the needs of our diverse members and address disparities.
Bridget Hurd, vice president of Inclusion and Diversity, is leading the office and told The Michigan Chronicle that BCBS is addressing vaccine hesitancy through inclusive conversations.
“The COVID-19 pandemic has been very challenging for all of us here in Michigan,” Hurd said. “However, recent data from the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services shows that COVID-19 disproportionately affects African American/Black, Hispanic/Latinx and Native American communities throughout our state at an alarming rate. Although these groups account for only 19 percent of the total population, they represent 27 percent of the worst outcomes for lives lost due to COVID-19. The MDHHS data also shows that having pre-existing conditions adds a greater risk of being infected with the COVID-19 virus.”
Hurd said that it is important to recognize that saying “no” to the vaccine is different from vaccine hesitancy, which tends to be a continuum that a person moves from a position of “I’m not sure” to a position of “yes” as they learn more about the vaccine and see other people in their communities getting it.
“Another important issue is access to the vaccine. We must continue to make sure that access to the vaccine is available in neighborhoods and that we address other barriers that may prevent those who are ready to get the vaccine from getting the vaccine,” she said. “When we consider current vaccination rates across the country, we are seeing a disparity in terms of who is getting the vaccination.”
BCBS is mobilizing companies and community organizations statewide to organize COVID-19 vaccination clinics, develop and distribute information out in the community and on its online platforms about the vaccine’s safety and effectiveness, and continue hosting discussions and dialogue on what the community’s needs are as it relates to the COVID-19 vaccine and health care coverage and delivery.
“We also recently distributed an updated toolkit on COVID-19 vaccine information, which is a resource guide to help answer common questions and point individuals to resources they need and where they can get further information on where to receive shots. Blue Cross published this in English, Spanish and Arabic and has sent this out to the community,” she said. “As the largest health insurer in Michigan, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan is doing its part to identify, investigate and develop strategies to address social determinants of health, which disproportionately impact those who have been historically underrepresented.”