State says government mistrust among causes of vaccine hesitancy

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(AP Photo, State of Tennessee photo, modified)

KNOXVILLE., Tenn. (WATE) — Shortcuts, data and mistrust are the culprits behind a statewide hesitancy to get the COVID-19 vaccine, according to a survey conducted by the Tennessee Department of Health.

Dr. Lisa Piercey gave the results of the survey during a press conference Tuesday following remarks by Gov. Bill Lee that he is ending public health orders in the state. One thousand people were asked why they were hesitant to receive the vaccine in order to find ways to overcome that, she said.

“People are concerned that the vaccines were developed too quickly,” Piercey said. “They assume shortcuts were taken because the vaccine was developed quickly.”

“There were no shortcuts in safety,” Piercey said, noting that vaccines usually taking 3-5 years or more to develop and launch.

Piercey said recruiting volunteers for trials wasn’t an issue and that the different investments and manufacturing setups needed were accelerated under the former President Donald Trump in order to get to the vaccine more quickly.

“The process has been the same with all the same checks and balances,” Piercey said.

Piercey said she was surprised to see the second reason, that there were a fair number of people who were more afraid of dying from the vaccine than from the virus itself.

“Most people aren’t studying the numbers all day. They don’t need to be. But there are exceedingly higher chances you will contract COVID and die from it than from the vaccine,” Piercey said. “We have to get the message out there. They are a lot safer than COVID itself.”

The third reason?

“People don’t trust the government,” Piercey said.

She encouraged people in leadership positions to use their influence to encourage vaccinations.

“They trust you more than the government,” she said.

Piercey also released some new data about who has received the vaccine, showing that in Tennessee:

  • 75% of people 70 and older have had the vaccine
  • 60.7% of people 60-69 years old
  • 44.8% of people 50-59 years old
  • 36.2% of people 40-49 years old
  • 31.5% of people 30-39 years old
  • 23.9% of people 20-29 years old
  • 16.2% of people 16-19 years old

Piercey also encouraged young people to get vaccinated, saying unvaccinated people make up most of the current hospitalizations from the virus.

“Lower risk doesn’t mean no risk,” she said.

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