Fear hurts vaccine efforts

Efforts to increase the number of vaccinations across the country were dealt a blow Tuesday with the announcement the Johnson & Johnson vaccine was being put on “pause” after six women who received it developed a “rare and severe” blood clot. One of the women died and another is in critical condition.

The news couldn’t have been more devastating for a country that has counted on the public’s faith in its vaccination program to protect its citizens. It has the potential to damage public confidence in all of the COVID-19 vaccines, as polls suggest potentially tens of millions of Americans are already hesitant to get the shots.

There were already signs of the reluctance happening before the Johnson & Johnson pause. As of Monday only 17.15 percent of Highland County residents were fully or partially vaccinated, compared to 42 percent across Ohio.

There’s a multitude of reasons why people have been hesitant to get the vaccine, but the one common factor is the fear of the unknown. Some of the other reasons include:

• They want to wait to see if the shots are really safe.

• They are concerned about the vaccines’ side effects.

• They are not sure the vaccines will work.

• They don’t trust the government, with one Ohio resident noting, “If Jim Jordan hasn’t received the vaccine, that’s good enough reason for me to forgo.”

So what’s next?

The Biden Administration is trying to boost confidence by claiming the pause is an example of the government putting safety first. It’s “testimony to how seriously we take safety,” said Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top infectious disease expert.

Let’s hope our local health officials and the community’s leadership don’t resort to such shallow statements. Comments like that just antagonize people.

Instead, efforts need to continue to focus on making the vaccination process as convenient as possible. When people see others getting the vaccine, it can create a ripple effect and help wipe away fears.

It also will be important to emphasize the pause is only for the Johnson & Johnson vaccine and may last only a few days, depending on what the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Food and Drug Administration learn in their review of medical data. It’s possible they will adjust their guidance on the best candidates to receive the Johnson & Johnson vaccine — for example, by age group.

And it shouldn’t be lost on people that the Moderna and Pfizer vaccinations continue to be the most widely used COVID-19 vaccines in the U.S. Both vaccines are made with a completely different technology, and the FDA said there is no sign of a similar clot concern with these two vaccines. They will continue uninterrupted, as the rare blood clotting issues have not been observed in individuals who received either mRNA vaccine.

The pandemic is still far from being over. While we believe a vaccine shouldn’t be forced on anyone, at the same time, we maintain business owners and others are within their rights to deny service or entry to anyone who cannot produce proof of vaccination.

Vaccinations are not only necessary for the nation to emerge from the pandemic, but they are best for the safety of you and your loved ones.

The column was produced by the Lima News, a division of AIM Media Midwest.