EL PASO, Texas (KTSM) – The World Health Organization listed vaccine hesitancy as one of the biggest threats to public health in 2019, and now we face the same issue when it comes to the COVID-19 vaccine.
Dr. Jagdish Khubchandani, a professor of Public Health at New Mexico State University, said if more than one-quarter of the population refuses to take the vaccine, it becomes nearly inefficient and the virus will keep spreading.
He reminded that in 2019, measles made a grim comeback in the U.S., killing thousands of children because many parent’s refused to vaccinate their children. He said the disease was supposed to be vanished from the U.S. by 2010.
“We are fighting a pandemic and an ‘infodemic,'” said Dr. Khubchandani, explaining how vaccine hesitancy stems from rumors that start spreading in the community, most often through social media.
He said we need to change the way information is communicated to the public, with more bipartisan support and accurate scientific communication without shaming.
According to one of his studies, most hesitancy happens in rural, hard-to-reach and less-educated areas, especially in Texas and New Mexico.
He also emphasized how distrust in medicine more often happens among the African-American population, who have historically been exploited and thus have more doubt in the public health care system.
He said to bridge this gap, we need open conversations with no blaming, as well as public role models.
Fear of serious side effects is another reason many do not want to get vaccinated.
Many believe that the vaccine was developed too quickly, since it is faster than the usual 5 to 10 year time frame.
He said that this vaccine has been developed with the newest technology that took more than 25 years to develop, so in reality, it wasn’t entirely as quick.
Khubchandani explained that life-threatening side effects are extremely rare with vaccines and most common ones are local side effects such as pain in the arm where the vaccine was administered or a slight fever.
He says that slight side effects are a wanted reaction, because they prove that the body is reacting to the vaccine and that it is, in fact, working.
However, he said, it is crucial for most of the population to take it in order to get rid of this pandemic.