Why so Many People Were Skeptical About the COVID Vaccine?
The covid pandemic was the first major pandemic of the century, and we can all agree that we handled it poorly. With all the technology and knowledge we have, you would think we would have a better understanding of viruses and pandemics, and how to deal with them. What struck me the most is that even with the high death toll, people still refused to take the vaccine that could potentially keep death at bay. Why?
The Invisible Killer
The first reason that comes to mind is the seemingly benign nature of covid. Unlike the bubonic plague or smallpox, the physical damage of covid-19 is not as apparent or gruesome. Also, we have better medical facilities now, so we no longer see piles of dead bodies that are the typical hallmarks of a pandemic. Hence, people readily underestimate the effect of covid-19 because they can’t see it. It doesn’t help that it was initially being compared to the common cold.
What we knew about covid at the beginning of the pandemic is almost completely different from what we know now. Knowledge about biological systems changes as swiftly as the facts are adjusted. Immunology is one of those fields in which textbooks are outdated within a year. It’s a constantly evolving field. That doesn’t mean it’s full of lies. And herein lies the trust issue that society had with the information surrounding covid. The media certainly did not help. When a scientist is presenting data, there is never an absolute because nothing is ever 100%. However, when the media is presenting data, they always work in absolute to get the most reaction. That creates a lot of confusion for the viewers because they have been robbed of the option of flexibility. How can I trust the information you’re presenting now when you told me yesterday that was was the real and hard truth?
Too Much Information and Lack of Trust
Changing truths lead to a lack of trust. You don’t have to think very hard to see why people become mistrustful of changing truths. With scientific facts, more information is needed to fully understand the system you are working with. However, this influx of information is only beneficial if you understand it. For the rest of us, it’s just gibberish and confusion. And the more confused you get, the less trusting. Because the information is gibberish to you, you look for what makes the most sense to you. I believe that’s how some of the conspiracy theories slipped through the cracks. It was probably easier for some people to wrap their heads around 4G spreading covid than understanding how the ACE-2 receptor works. Think about it a bit. If you describe both processes to someone that knows little about science, they would both sound convoluted, BUT the 4G theory would be more interesting, and thus, stick with you more.
How did you feel reading the preceding paragraph? That only a really dumb person would believe the 4G theory? If that’s your attitude, then that’s how we lose more people to “dumb” theories. We fail to acknowledge their thought processes and concerns. Let’s take a look at some of the concerns surrounding the virus:
The vaccine trial periods were too short
The efficacies are constantly changing
I don’t know what’s inside of it
There are some more outlandish points, but I wanted to focus on these. In the attempt to demonize anti-vaxxers, we have failed to address their concerns. The plain truth, as history has shown us, is that, for every scientific breakthrough, the panacea becomes the poison before stabilizing itself. There are bound to be casualties. The first responders to a new medication are the guinea pigs and there is a general understanding (at least there used to be) that even if you die, it will be for the advancement of mankind.
The point I’m trying to make is that if we had been honest about the uncertainty of the treatment, without guaranteeing the unknown, maybe, just maybe, fewer people would have been mistrustful of the vaccine and science in general.