What are the vaccine-hesitant waiting for?

Most of us have had the experience of watching a beloved child toddling toward danger with a merry grin on his little face and a sparkle in his eyes.

Hopefully we move fast enough to keep him from petting the skunk or landing face-first in the middle of the birthday cake.

This may give us an inkling of how public health officials feel as they try to persuade COVID-19 vaccine hold-outs to get protected, not just for their own benefit, but for that of children and immune-compromised adults who cannot be vaccinated.

Most of us know someone who is still waiting for that definitive but elusive study that will assure them the vaccine is 100 per cent safe. Reality check – no vaccine is 100 per cent safe. But all vaccines in this country, including the ones for COVID-19, are tested to ensure the chance of extreme side effects is miniscule.

We may have a friend or relative who has nothing against vaccines but has not taken the time to get the COVID-19 shots, maybe because there are two of them, which is a bother. We have a form of COVID that is making unvaccinated people in this community very sick – not just elderly people in poor health, but young, strong people. What are they waiting for? The time to get immunized is not after someone in their household lands in hospital, but before.

And then there are the folks who are afraid of needles. One might be inclined to ask what is scarier, a pin-prick on the arm, or a disease that can put them in hospital on a ventilator. Granted, anxiety issues can be very uncomfortable, but there are solutions that might include vaccination in a familiar setting like the neighbourhood pharmacy.

Of course, there is a small percentage of people for whom everything involving COVID-19 is some weird government conspiracy, and getting vaccinated – or wearing a mask in indoor public places, or quarantining if exposed to the virus – means letting “them” steal one’s rights and freedom. These people are not vaccine-hesitant, they are rabidly anti-vaccine. Will they change their minds and get vaccinated? Not likely.

Hopefully, enough people who are still sitting on the fence about vaccination get tired of their uncomfortable perch before the delta variant finds them and triggers a fourth wave, as it has in many countries around the world.

The frustrating thing is we know how to stop this virus in its tracks and get life back to normal. After going on two years of COVID, we have no patience for anything that will prolong the pandemic. And it is certain the people who have been on the front lines battling this bug feel even stronger.

Before we take out our anger on the people who are interfering with our intense desire to put the pandemic behind us, we should consider the fact that humans are, by nature, contrary creatures.

It has taken two decades of a concerted education and enforcement effort to get people to stop driving while impaired, and there are hold-outs. Alcohol is still a major factor in vehicle collisions. People still get arrested for driving without wearing a seat belt, talking on their cell phone while driving, and zipping past “road closed” signs.

It is also in our nature to look at something most people say cannot be done, and do it, like cure an incurable illness, or solve a problem that has boggled minds in the world for centuries. Or maybe even develop an effective vaccine against a deadly illness in only a few months after being told it takes years.

There was a time when no human could run a mile faster than four minutes – until Roger Bannister did it.

Contrarians have their “up” side. It is their right to refuse the vaccine. It is our duty to persuade – not bully – them to protect themselves and us.

We can only wonder what spectacular things will be accomplished by that contrary little guy heading toward the birthday cake like a small homing missile.