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Despite Massachusetts having one of the best vaccination rates in the country, there are still two million residents who have not received a COVID-19 vaccine. Some eligible individuals may still feel reluctant due to unknown long-term side effects, mistrust in the medical community, or assumed natural immunity. While others are becoming among the thousands who have recently received a vaccine dose.
So what’s convincing the latecomers to get the jab?
Could campaigns like the VaxMillions lottery, vaccine trains for walk-up shots, and free Dunkin’ iced coffee have helped to increase accessibility and curb vaccine hesitancy?
Perhaps the rise in hospitalizations fueled by the highly contagious Delta variant has influenced some unvaccinated individuals?
During a COVID-19 outbreak in Provincetown, three-fourths of the 469 cases were among fully vaccinated people. After studying this event, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) updated its mask guidance for people to wear masks indoors in public places with “substantial” or “high” COVID-19 transmission, regardless of vaccination status. This includes all of Massachusetts.
Although Mass. DPH tracked nearly 10,000 confirmed COVID-19 infections among those fully vaccinated, only 106 have died — a small percentage compared to the more than four million fully vaccinated residents.
With COVID-19 cases on the rise again, we asked Boston.com readers if they were once hesitant about receiving the vaccine, and what ultimately changed their minds.
Most readers, 62 percent, said they were not hesitant about the COVID-19 vaccine and jumped at the chance to get it once they were eligible. The response follows the state’s trend of lowest vaccine hesitancy rate in the U.S. Readers said they wanted to get vaccinated as soon as possible because of their families, the elderly people they cared for at work, and to help Massachusetts reach herd immunity.
“I have two young kids and a mortgage and although I’m relatively young and healthy, I didn’t want to take any chances,” Chris from Boston wrote.
“Never was hesitant and will never be hesitant about an approved vaccine (even if it is just emergency-approved). There is a good amount of data that these vaccines are safe,” Katie from Brighton wrote.
“I couldn’t wait to get vaccinated. I work with the elderly and disabled, entering public housing buildings daily. I was hesitant to continue to do my job as things got worse before the vaccine. I was afraid for myself and that I would bring it home to my family,” Hank Goldman from Weymouth wrote.
However, forty percent shared that they were hesitant or unwilling, sharing stories about how the COVID-19 vaccine spooked them initially, but in the end decided to protect themselves and others against COVID-19.
Of the readers who responded, the majority (88 percent) are fully vaccinated while 11 percent said they have not received the COVID-19 vaccine.
We wanted to hear from readers on what convinced them to get vaccinated despite their initial skepticism.
Some said they were hesitant, but got vaccinated for their children and immunocompromised family members. One reader felt reluctant after hearing stories about allergic reactions to the vaccine.
Despite the Delta variant increasing the spread among vaccinated and unvaccinated individuals, COVID-19 vaccines help reduce the severity of the illness, according to medical experts. The vaccine is free and currently available to anyone over the age of 12.
Ahead, read a sampling of responses from readers who were hesitant to get vaccinated, and what changed their minds.
Responses have been edited for length and clarity.
“I felt that the trials were somewhat rushed and still have not been approved by the FDA.” — Jerry Turner, Brewster
“I was hesitant because we don’t really know the long term affects, but also understand that we have to trust science and the potential long term effects of the vaccine will most likely not be as bad as potentially getting COVID and spreading it to others and the long term effects of that. I was also pregnant and hearing the lead maternity doctors at Mass. General Hospital urging pregnant women to get the vaccine and the reasons behind it gave me more confidence.” — Leigh, Belmont
“Everyone talked me into it! I got both Moderna [shots] and never got sick from either vaccine.” — Anonymous
“I was hesitant as I didn’t want to get sick from the vaccine while taking care of my children. My sister-in-law had a very bad reaction to the first dose of the vaccine that landed her in the ICU for over 2 months. Her body went into full shut down because of an allergic reaction to the vaccine. She almost died. Ultimately I knew her case was rare and I was risking contracting COVID and spreading it to vulnerable family members if I didn’t get vaccinated. But it did give me pause and I waited a while to do it because you never know how your body will react.” — Sue, Acton
“I just couldn’t handle the thought of being at home anymore or ‘locked out’ of events so I took the risk. I’d rather die out and about than be stuck inside my house.” — Crys, Somerville
“My hesitation was due to past thyroid issues. Reading about the COVID surge in India and Brazil changed my mind. My son was very proactive in getting the vaccine even before he was qualified by contacting pharmacies asking if they had no shows or cancellations.” — Maggi Mercado
“I decided that I wanted to be a part of the solution to ending the pandemic.” — Anonymous
“I was hesitant before the vaccine started to become available because it’s a new [mRNA vaccine] and the testing was done in a much shorter period. However I changed my mind and got it as soon as I was eligible.” — Wayne, Provincetown
“I was very hesitant to get the vaccine for two reasons. One, I have had severe reactions to other vaccines in the past. Second, I am just plain old petrified of needles. However, I got the vaccine to protect not only myself, but immunocompromised family members, friends with children under 12 and even strangers I may never get to know. It’s the responsible thing to do for our country so we can move past COVID.” — Amy, Quincy
“I was nervous about the mRNA vaccines. I felt that if I was to experiment on myself at a molecular level, it would be to fight cancer, not a virus. The J&J was more an ‘old school’ flu vaccine, so I went with it. Of course, the next day it was all over the news due to blood clots. Luckily, I had no adverse reaction.” — Patti, Quincy
“I was technically hesitant at first, but I came around very quickly. First, I knew that by the time my family and I were eligible, many people would have already received the vaccine, so I realized I wouldn’t have the option to be one of the first ‘guinea pigs.’ Then I read about how mRNA vaccines had been researched for, literally, decades. Lastly, I read that tragic side effects from vaccines have historically shown themselves within 60 days of receiving the vaccine, which resolved my concern about the likelihood of side effects that might not show themselves for years down the line. At the end of the day, I was much more afraid of the very real and present danger of contracting and/or spreading COVID than I was of the teeny tiny hypothetical possibility of any negative side effects from the vaccine.” — Anonymous
“I honestly felt pressured from friends. It wasn’t a good feeling. I wanted the pandemic to end too … To me, now that I’m vaccinated, COVID’s over for me. I had a very bad reaction to the vaccine and felt sick for a week. I didn’t go through that or this past year for nothing.” — Anonymous
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