Representatives from the Carroll County Health Department participate each week in the Board of County Commissioners meetings, fielding questions and disseminating information about the coronavirus pandemic. Many numbers are shared, from new cases of COVID-19 in Carroll County to ICU beds in use at Carroll Hospital to positivity rates among those tested.
This past Thursday, Health Planner Maggie Kunz shared some particularly worrisome statistics, gleaned from the Community COVID-19 Vaccine Survey completed by about 10,600 county residents.
According to the survey results, only about half of Carroll countians plan to get a vaccine for COVID-19 when it comes out and nearly one in four responded they “definitely” would not get the shot.
The question posed was, “Do you think you will get a COVID-19 vaccine as soon as it becomes available to you?” While “definitely” received the most responses at about 31% and another 19% said probably, some 14% answered not sure, 13% said probably not and 23% said definitely not. In terms of reasons given for not wanting to vaccinated, the main ones cited were side effects, safety, that the vaccine was not tested “on people like me,” the approval process and effectiveness.
We understand there is a natural fear of the unknown and a general distrust of anything having to do with the government. Still, it’s alarming to see that so many people would rather take their chances with COVID-19, which has altered school, business and life so substantially in Carroll and, across nation, kills on a daily basis about the same number of people who died at Pearl Harbor, than to get the vaccine.
Nationally, the number who definitely or probably will get vaccinated as soon as possible is a bit higher, around 60% according to a Pew Research study. Still, that’s far from the number needed to achieve herd immunity and means a lot of people are going to be getting infected and passing it on and, sadly, dying at a time when many of their vaccinated friends and neighbors will be virus-free.
The two leading COVID-19 vaccine candidates, one from Pfizer and one from Moderna, reportedly have proven to be 95% effective in clinical trials that have been going on for many, many moths. That’s a rate far higher than what’s needed for Food and Drug Administration approval.
Who’d have thought creating, testing and producing a vaccine in record time would be easier than convincing people to actually take it? Leaders have a herculean task ahead of them in making people understand the importance being vaccinated. President-elect Joe Biden, Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan and numerous elected officials at all levels have pledged to get the vaccine as soon as it is available.
It might take more than that, however. Perhaps people will need a little incentive. So give it to them. Make proof of vaccination a condition of entry to businesses like restaurants or bars. And to be allowed to go to work or recreate in public places. And to be allowed back in school.
Clearly, this pandemic has returned more than ever over the past two months with no sign of letting up. People want to return to normalcy but aren’t willing to significantly change behavior. It’s unrealistic to believe that can happen without an effective vaccine. For the vaccine to be effective, however, the vast majority of citizens need to get it.
We’re approaching 300,000 COVID-19 fatalities in the United States. Every one is a tragedy. But the lives lost after a vaccine becomes available but is refused will be as senseless as they are tragic.