COVID Vaccine Hesitancy

Spring conditions in the Sierras

Original Twitter thread posted on April 12, 2021:

I went snowboarding and spent time with my family for the last three days and trust me when I tell you that I tried so hard to turn my doctor brain off. So hard. Then on my first run of the day today, the universe put me on a lift with a family talking about COVID and vaccines.

About the vaccine being rushed. About how numbers are going down when they thought only 11% of people had been vaccinated, so they didn’t think the vaccines were doing anything. About how they anticipated the government would force everyone to eventually get vaccinated.

I just tried to tuned it out and bite my tongue. But they kept up with more conspiratorial talk and eventually I just turned to them and said, “well, I got my first dose in December and so I’ve been immune for a while. Honestly, I can’t explain how much of a relief that’s been.”

Mind you, this is like an 8 and a half minute chair and I’m at least 6 to 7 minutes in now. One of them turns to me and asks me for my opinion. I consider that I might regret my decision to open my mouth, but then again, I’m not very good at not speaking up.

I explained that I probably had a very different perspective than them since I’ve been treating patients with COVID for over a year now as an emergency medicine physician, so I didn’t share their concerns, and had a few points to clarify.

They seemed willing to listen so I launched into an explanation of how this was actually not at all rushed, but that I understand why the quick turnaround time might feel that way to them. I explained that all vaccines are tested for both safety and efficacy and that the safety testing was by no means cut short, with tens of thousands of patients and excellent safety data with few significant side effects. The major difference in the time course came in testing for efficacy and that this was able to be more rapid than other infections because, unfortunately, COVID became so widespread and so rapidly that the rate of infections was vastly higher than any other disease condition for which we have a vaccine. Therefore, we could determine efficacy in a much more rapid time frame, all with good, reliable data. I explained that this held true for all of the currently approved vaccines, and that there is no reason to suspect that would be any different for children, but we’re doing those trials now as well.

“Oh, and those ‘side effects’ you’re wondering about,” I said, “I just call those ‘effects’ because that’s expected, that’s what we want. That’s your body’s immune system ramping up to produce antibodies. I felt feverish and had sore muscles and a headache for 12 hours, but then felt fine and I’ve been fine since.”

I felt like I was going to be putting them off. I could sense how fast I was talking, seeing the end of the lift coming up. I hoped I didn’t come off as too abrasive.

As we were about to get off the lift, the mom nodded and said “you know, that actually makes a lot of sense, that seems pretty reasonable.” Oh, and by the way, the number of vaccinated folks is now at over 45% of adults with at least one shot and over 28% fully vaccinated.

We rode off in separate directions and I wasn’t sure how to feel, other than that I clearly need to work on my “elevator pitch” if I’m going to open my dumb mouth again on a chair lift.



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Taylor Nichols

Taylor Nichols

Humanist. Emergency Medicine Physician. Health policy enthusiast. Views are my own. (He/Him)