Anti-vaxxers…be afraid, be very afraid

Republican legislators nationwide continue to invoke updated versions of “Don’t Tread On Me” and rugged individualism to constrain medical experts they regard as embodiments of government overreach. The Supreme Court has been sympathetic and has endangered us all.

At least 15 state legislatures have enacted or proposed measures circumscribing public health agencies’ independence and legal powers. At least 46 states have introduced bills meant to curb gubernatorial or executive actions during healthcare crises, national security flare-ups, natural disasters, and other emergencies.

The economy, markets, jobs, communities, families, and future generations are at risk, otherwise, because Mother Nature has shown little patience with the anti-factual hubris.

COVID-19 is surging again, this time fueled by the highly infectious and deadly Delta variant, ravaging the country—especially in places with low vaccination rates such as Alabama, Louisiana, and Mississippi. As of August, about half of the country remains unvaccinated. But as this unvaccinated group has asserted its importance and become a public health menace, it seems dangerous to dismiss them as an undifferentiated collective. Not everyone who is unvaccinated is an anti-vaxxer. Some people are immunocompromised, others have legitimate medical questions, and some struggle to find time to get vaccinated.

Since the start of the pandemic, suspicion of the government has converged with a broad refusal to accept scientific evidence—one that President Trump has enabled—and it’s given the groups new points of reference: They’ve railed against shelter-in-place orders and masks. And in these radicalized spaces, misinformation thrives…Limaye worries that the cross-pollination between the anti-vax community and far-right groups could eventually cause an epidemic of vaccine skepticism. And if that happens, we’ll be in real trouble.

There are a variety of reasons behind vaccine opposition. Some people have to forgo different vaccinations due to a high risk of potential allergic reactions. But for most who refuse vaccines, it should be known that there is little risk. People think the risks outweigh the benefits. This is currently the biggest objection in the United States. Parents cite many medical risks, including autism, as potential consequences of being vaccinated.

Many also think that pharmaceutical companies can’t be trusted. They believe that pharmaceutical companies only want to sell their products, regardless of the impact on the people who use them.

If you choose to smoke, your health insurance premiums will be higher. If you’re caught driving drunk, your car insurance payments will skyrocket. In other words, the greater the risks you take, the more you’ll pay. As Covid cases climb again, more companies put aside carrots and turn to sticks to protect their workers. In a September survey, the Society for Human Resource Management found less than 1% of organizations had raised health insurance premiums for unvaccinated workers, and 13% have considered doing so.

Companies like Delta say yes. On August 25, 2021, Delta CEO Ed Bastian announced that unvaccinated employees enrolled in the company’s healthcare plan would be required to pay a $200 monthly surcharge for healthcare. Before the announcement, 74% of the company’s workforce had been vaccinated. In the last month, that number has risen to 78%, as 20% of the company’s 20,000 unvaccinated employees have chosen to receive the vaccine and avoid the fee. According to Delta’s chief health officer, Dr. Henry Ting, no employees have left the company because of the surcharge.

One wonders if these anti-vaxxers would refuse a cancer treatment because of the same reason they are rejecting the COVID vaccine. The media has been running stories about anti-vaxxers on their deathbeds, regretting their decisions not to get the vaccine, but the movement doesn’t seem to get the message.

What can we take away from this?

1ne: Social media can be an effective tool against ANY healthcare treatment or product. Please don’t count on social media to police themselves.

2wo: Companies that charge employees more because they are unvaccinated seem to be working.

3hree: Health misinformation is abundant online.

4our: Marketing cannot overcome inaccurate/insufficient health information online. What’s needed is a scientific approach to understand that even that won’t persuade everyone.

5ive: DTC marketers need to monitor social media for misinformation about their products and be ready to respond to substantial threats.