Widespread COVID-19 vaccinations are our likeliest way out of the pandemic. In Texas, that would mean vaccinating about 70%-80% of people. But reaching that number could be a challenge when a significant portion of the population, including some health care workers, are hesitant or refuse to get a shot.
Karen Brooks Harper has been reporting about the vaccine for The Texas Tribune. She told Texas Standard that there are many reasons for vaccine hesitancy.
“Mostly, it’s concerns about safety and side effects, speed of the clinical development process, distrust of the political and economic motives of the government and the corporations and then you’ve got your established and newer conspiracy theories involving vaccines,” she said.
Surveys show that as many as 40% of Texans are hesitant about the COVID-19 vaccine, she says.
When it comes to health care workers, in particular, the acceptance rate varies among different providers. Brooks Harper says it’s higher among doctors and medical students and lowest among home health workers.
She says hesitancy can also concentrate in groups who have ongoing and historical reasons to mistrust the health care system.
“You’ve got issues of mistrust in the government when you’re talking about people of color,” she said. “They don’t have a good history with access to treatment and testing during the pandemic, access to the vaccine now and some pretty bad episodes with the government over the decades regarding medical experimentation.”
Overall, though, Texans’ COVID-19 vaccine acceptance rate tracks with the national average – about 60%-70%. And that’s despite Texas being what Brooks Harper calls “ground zero” for the anti-vaccine movement.
No vaccine is without side effects. But she says health experts widely agree that the COVID-19 vaccines are safe. And Moderna and Pfizer have shown their vaccines to be 94% and 95% effective.