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Certain demographics in the US, such as African Americans and Republicans, are more hesitant about the Covid vaccine than others. Dr Francis Collins of the National Institutes of Health stresses that listening may be the most important thing to do to address their concerns. This is how some experts are reaching out. Video by Chloe Kim and Alexandra Ostasiewicz
- At this point, I have no desire to get the vaccine.
- I did not want to put anything foreign that, you know, so new in my body.
KATRINA RANDOLPH: I would ask them, have you been vaccinated? Are you interested in being vaccinated? And they say no. I ask them why.
MIKE BROWN: They try to stop the reproduction of our race. That's one I'll be hearing.
JOE BIDEN: Every adult over the age of 18 year old will be eligible to be vaccinated.
FRANCIS COLLINS: Where does this resistance really leave us? Are we in real trouble here in terms of achieving the kind of blanket of protective immunity that the country needs if we're really going to be able to go back to normal?
STEPHEN THOMAS: You know, for a long time, the early part of the pandemic, I was getting intelligence from the barbershop. These are places where conspiracy theories can grow or where we can bring evidence-based scientifically accurate information to the community.
KATRINA RANDOLPH: A lot of my clients trust me more than they even trust their own physicians.
MIKE BROWN: Sometimes I'm a marriage counselor, sometimes a fashion consultant.
STEPHEN THOMAS: Mike sends me a message and says, here's one of these flyers being circulated in the barbershop. It said COVID is a hoax. Don't take the test. Don't take the vaccine. Vaccine wasn't even developed yet.
- You could take it maybe. Don't give it to your kids. They trying to stop your kids from reproducing. I heard they tried to put the chip in.
- But we had this conversation every time my client sit in my chair. So when I sit in that chair, I have to have do their consultation on hair. The next question I would ask them, have you been vaccinated? Are you interested in being vaccinated? And they say no. I ask them why. And what I realized, a lot of my clients couldn't answer that question. So what I did was I started doing research to be able to share more information with them.
FRANCIS COLLINS: The divide between hesitant and welcoming seems to map pretty closely to political party, which, again, reflects how everything in the US has gotten polarized along political lines, although it doesn't make a lot of sense scientifically.
- When the vaccine first came out, I had decided that I was not going to get the vaccine. I have never gotten any kind of vaccine for the flu or anything like that. And it just is one of those things that I just did not feel comfortable doing.
My husband and I talked about it. He was on the fence as well. But he came around, and he has been talking to me about getting the vaccine as well. We signed up to get the Johnson & Johnson yesterday. We were supposed to get it and of course, they paused it. So I was like, is that a sign? Should I just back away from it?
- I'd like to see a little bit more time pass with better results on the vaccine before I jump off. We've had a lot of recalls in certain vaccines. Some have been pulled off. Some have had to be thrown away. And so there's a lot of unanswered questions. I'm of the philosophy of believing that when it's time to go, it's my time to go. Some of these chemicals that are put in our body that we don't know how they're going to react to us is a little bit of a problem.
FRANCIS COLLINS: I think in general, Republicans may be skeptical of what academics and that includes scientists in academia are all about maybe seen as sort of an elitist group and not some group that you could be confident, has really got your best interests. Probably the most important thing we can do as far as addressing hesitancy is to listen.
MIKE BROWN: Unfortunately, we still have clients out there that's still skeptical about taking it. And the approach that I've taken from my platform is to try to convince them otherwise and just to try to not go toe to toe with them but explain to them, you know, the truth.
STEPHEN THOMAS: People think you're shaming them. People think you're looking down on them. But watching Mike, he just listens. So it's a conversation. It's not like I'm coming in the message you, pitch you. I think that's a lesson for us in the health professions.
FRANCIS COLLINS: Compared to the hypothetical risk of a vaccine, which is now in the United States have been injected into more than 100 million people and it's been going really well. So if you're sort of waiting to see, is this working, I think the answer is yes, it really is. Compare that risk to the possibility of actually getting this disease and ending up in the hospital, or the ICU, or even dying seems like a pretty good balance.