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The Consequences of Vaccine Hesitancy

COVID-19 vaccination event posting on Texas State University campus

As Texas State University enters its third month of administrating vaccines for COVID-19, signs of vaccination hesitancy may be signaling the end of mass vaccinations. 

Since October 2020, a mass vaccination workgroup, formed by Texas State President Denise Trauth, has been working to establish protocols and sites for delivering vaccinations to students. So far, the group has managed to establish storage for any of the approved vaccines, find sites for mass vaccination events, obtain Pfizer and Johnson-Johnson vaccines from the state and deliver vaccines to those eligible (16 or older). Through this, Texas State University has solidified itself as one the many vaccinations hubs Texas’ has been using to strategically deliver vaccines to its citizens. 

COVID-19 Hays County Timeline (includes data for Deaths, Recoveries and Active Cases)

Data gathered from the Hays County COVID-19 dashboard

The result of Texas State’s vaccination efforts, along with other vaccine clinics in Hays county, have been positive. The overall total number of cases in Hays County have dropped significantly since the late months of 2020. More than 3,000 active cases were reported in January 2021 but after the vaccination rollouts the number of active cases has been remaining at a little over 600 cases in April. The same however cannot be said for Texas as a whole. The state’s numbers have increased steadily since January of this year with 1.7 million active cases to a new current total of 2.8 million. 

Current COVID-19 numbers in Hays County. Data gathered from the Hays County COVID-19 dashboard

There could be several explanations for Texas’ increase in cases such as slow vaccine rollouts, COVID-19 negligence or the recent spring break holiday. However, one of the most plausible contributing factors according to Dr. Emilio Carranco, Texas State University student health center director, may have to do with vaccine hesitancy as it is a potential devastating factor to vaccination efforts that the country is already concerned about.  

Texas State Student Health Center

Carranco says vaccinations have begun to slow down and cases may rise because most of the people who want a vaccine, have already gotten one and the benefits have already been seen.  

“A lot of the demand for vaccines was coming from our elderly population as they are higher risk. With just a couple months we vaccinated a lot the high-risk people who wanted vaccinated,” Carranco said. “Now what we’re looking at is people who are relatively healthy and not in the high-risk group. They’re on the fence about it for a lot of reasons. They don’t understand the safety, they have concerns on why the vaccines were so quickly developed. Vaccines being produced rapidly is new. It’s scary. But that’s the way it’s probably going to be because we have better science and better technology. There’s always 15 to 20 percent of the population who doesn’t want to be vaccinated.”

Vaccinated Population in Hays County

Data gathered from Texas Department of State Health Services

Vaccine hesitancy stems from many concerns ranging from negative reactions to vaccines, long term effects and even an overall lack in trust many have for the authorities in charge of the rollout. 

Reasons some may not agree with being vaccinated: 

  • Unknown Side effects 
  • Negative reactions 
  • Distrust in authority 
  • Negligence of COVID-19 
  • Production seeming “Too quick” 

Joe Schmidt, a Texas State junior, says he is undecided on getting a vaccine because he is concerned with how he’ll react long term to it. 

“I want to give it some time before I get one. I don’t want to end up as a guinea pig of sorts. This is a new thing and people are already afraid of vaccines in some capacity and probably for a reason,” Schmidt said. “Maybe later if I feel more confident about it but I think if I keep wearing my mask and doing my part, I’ll be safe.” 

Carranco says most of the concerns people have about the vaccine can be explained. His responses include:

  • Unknown side effects: Clinical studies show side-effects are seen by six weeks after vaccination. We’re not seeing that with the vaccines. 
  • Negative Reactions: The number of negative reactions to getting a vaccine may seem common due to media but they are representative of only a small number of the vaccinated population. The benefits outweigh the bad. 

The dangers of vaccine hesitancy can be severe. Without mass vaccinations, it will be harder achieve herd immunity amongst a sufficient portion of the population. Also, without most of the population vaccinated, the potential for new strains increase. New strains could then mean the need for new vaccines which would set back all the work that has already been done. 

“We’re seeing hesitation across the country. I think from this point on we’re going to see less vaccinations and states are going to give up on mass vaccination sites because people aren’t turning out for those anymore. I think we’re going to try a different strategy of getting vaccines closer to the people whether that be through clinics or retail establishments like Walmart,” Carranco says. 

Carranco hopes in the future education of the safety and effectiveness of the vaccine will increase and in turn increase the vaccinated population. Carranco also hopes Texas State University helps to get that education to its students here on campus by being more understanding and promotive of vaccinations. 

Chelsea Mumy, a Texas State senior, says she has confidence in the vaccines’ effectiveness and believes others can reach that point too. 

“I’m looking forward to getting the vaccine soon. Many of the people around me are fully vaccinated,” Mumy says. “I don’t think if the vaccines were more dangerous than they are safe they would continue to be administered. Nobody wins in that scenario.” 

Students are required to wait 15 minutes after vaccinations in the LBJ Ballroom

Vaccination Sites in San Marcos

Data gathered from Texas Department of State Health Services

Free COVID-19 Testing Sites

Data gathered from Hays County Office of Emergency Service

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