By Jeb Bladine • President / Publisher • 

Bladine: Oregonians resist ‘vaccine hesitancy’

One of the most interesting cultural studies this year involves “vaccine hesitancy,” a key factor in the race to put down a worldwide COVID-19 pandemic. In September, researchers at Northeastern University and other partner institutions released an examination of why people resist getting vaccinated against the COVID-19 virus.

It was timely, given the nationwide August/September/October spike in COVID cases and deaths.

In direct questioning of 1,000 vaccinated and unvaccinated people, one-third had not received any vaccines. More than half of those unvaccinated respondents said they absolutely would not take a COVID-19 vaccine.

Staunch anti-vaxxers cited “wide-ranging concerns about the potential risk of the vaccines,” including fears of vaccine-induced blood clots, heart problems, allergies and other health problems. While not cited in the survey report, there even is an underground theory that COVID-19 vaccines are part of a long-term conspiracy to kill billions of people on an over-populated planet.

Ten percent of unvaccinated respondents simply don’t believe the COVID-19 virus poses a significant risk, and 15 percent cited “deep mistrust of government and other institutions.”

People responding to the survey expressed their highest trust toward hospitals and doctors, scientists and researchers, but those trust levels dropped precipitously when people were asked about government agencies, drug companies and the White House. Trust was lowest for the news media and social media companies.

One media challenge is reporting newsworthy stories about breakthrough cases, which adds to distrust of the vaccines that media mostly promote. That even though immunized people who contract COVID-19 fare better against the disease than do unvaccinated people.

Northeastern Professor David Lazer said he didn’t expect “a rush to get shots,” and that “the hardcore vaccine resistant probably are not going to shift very much.” However, there has been substantial vaccination activity through the fall.

Mandatory vaccination policies have prompted more immunization; a rise in breakthrough cases has added vaccine booster shots to the mix; people continue getting vaccinated, as shown by Oregon numbers from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control.

September through November — each week — an average of 43,360 Oregonians received their first COVID-19 vaccination shots, while an average of 33,800 Oregonians received their second shot of either Pfizer or Moderna vaccines. People receiving Johnson & Johnson vaccines needed just one shot.

Currently, 64 percent of all Oregonians — and 88.5 percent age 65 or over — are fully vaccinated. Both percentages are well above the national average, so it would seem the campaigns against vaccine hesitancy are working.

Jeb Bladine can be reached at jbladine@newsregister.com or 503-687-1223.

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