Mimsy Were the Borogoves

Editorials: Where I rant to the wall about politics. And sometimes the wall rants back.

How to overcome vaccine hesitancy

Jerry Stratton, September 1, 2021

Tom Sawyer paints a fence

Let other people know that painting the fence is fun, and the fence will be painted.

The best way to convince people to overcome their hestancy over the vaccines is to (a) announce that the emergency is over and drop all mask and vaccination requirements, (b) announce that no one cares if you’re vaccinated or not and stop bothering people about it, and (c) vaccinations will start costing as much as any other vaccination after October 1. You can get it before then, you can get it after then, whatever you want.

There would be a huge rush on vaccinations both before and after October 1. Because we’d be treating the vaccines as if they’re worth something.

People notice things like that.

There will always be a small cadre of people who don’t trust vaccines. But most people, unless there is evidence otherwise, just take them. Why not? What can it hurt? Some people might wait a while, just to see, but all other things being equal, they’ll get them once they see that there’s nothing to fear.

The problem with the COVID vaccines is that too many people on the pro-vaccine side seem hell-bent on acting as if it can in fact hurt to get the vaccines, that there is something to fear. If we want people to choose to take the vaccine, that’s got to change. It really seems like the current administration and pundits hanging around it want to keep people unvaccinated. They’re doing everything basic psychology says will discourage vaccinations.

First of all, there is no doubt that this medicine came about through a new process. Most medicines take several years to bring to market, due to an involved, costly, and time-consuming regulatory maze. The COVID vaccines came out in months. If the process that brought us the COVID vaccines is as trustworthy as the older process, we don’t need the older process any more. We should be getting a lot more new medicines a lot faster.

If the process is trustworthy, it should be extended to all medicines going forward. If it isn’t, that’s an obvious indication that the medical community and the government does not trust the development process that brought these vaccines to us so quickly. Treat the process as untrustworthy, people will believe it’s untrustworthy.

Chesterton: Stuffy science

Second, the whole vaccination push has a “we’ve always been at war with Eastasia” vibe. The same officials who are now pushing for mandatory vaccinations were, a year ago, saying they would never trust them. That needs to be acknowledged. They need to apologize across the political aisle, acknowledge they were wrong, and then stop treating vaccinations as a political cudgel.

People notice when officials act as if they don’t believe their own words.

Which brings me to the third big problem that is causing hesitancy: too many people pushing for vaccinations are acting as if they still don’t trust the vaccines. They’re acting like they’re waiting for a shoe to drop. If the vaccines work well, there is no need for a hard sell. People will see that it works for early adopters and get it themselves.

No one needs to be asked to bring their smartphone into a movie theater or a church. They need to be asked not to. We never needed laws forcing people to use smartphones on airplanes. We needed laws forcing them to not use smartphones on airplanes.1

Tom Sawyer got no takers when he tried to force his friends to help him paint the fence. The fence only got painted when he acted as if it it didn’t matter to him whether they helped or not, and that it was so enjoyable that he’d have to be paid to let them help.

Treat something as desirable, people will check it out. Treat it as undesirable, people will understandably tend to view it as undesirable.

It’s such basic psychology Mark Twain used it over a hundred years ago for one of his most memorable scenes in Tom Sawyer.

Forcing people to take vaccines, creating vaccination requirements to force them to take vaccines, is treating the vaccines as undesirable. That’s what you do to make kids eat their Brussels sprouts and asparagus. It’s not what you do for pie.

And it shifts the focus of late adopters from watching early adopters to wondering why the rush. Hearing Why aren’t you getting it now, now, now??? We’re going to force you to get it, the natural reaction is to ask, why are these vaccines so undesirable they have to be forced on us?

The other side of that coin is, don’t be so skittish. The biggest drop in the vaccination rate happened not when some anti-vaccine pundit did a social media event no one listened to. It happened when the President of the United States halted one of the vaccines because a ridiculously small number of a very obvious subset of users had a bad reaction.

The effect is to make people wonder. The people pushing vaccinations are acting as if they expect bad side effects from the vaccines. It was as if the administration was expecting a much wider side effect and were worried this would be the start of it.

People notice things like that.

But the number one way to convince people to take one of the vaccines is to rebuild your own credibility. If you’re one of the people who, in March 2020, were ridiculing people for wearing masks and by May 2020 were ridiculing people for not wearing masks… or who claimed a shutdown was necessary to flatten the curve, and then ignored when the curve was flattened… or who praised governors who were killing people in nursing homes while vilifying governors who were focusing on keeping nursing homes safe… or who ridiculed President Trump for claiming he’d have a safe vaccine in less than a year and who now ridicules people for not taking that vaccine… you need to acknowledge that you were wrong and apologize to the people you ridiculed.

If you’re one of the people who said that the vaccine will keep you from getting sick, then said that it won’t keep you from getting sick but will reduce the severity when you get sick and keep you from spreading it, then said that it won’t keep you from getting sick, it will reduce the severity, but it will also make you more likely to spread it because of the reduced severity… you need to acknowledge that you’ve been wrong. Science is humility before nature. Instead, we’ve been treated to a sort of mob science, a science that changes with the whim of the mob rather than the observations of nature.

Journalism Statistics

Too much of modern journalism and even government science today is choosing the method based on the desired result. Tricks like this do not encourage “trust in science”.

Scientific knowledge advances. People change their minds, and scientists are people. But honest people acknowledge that they’ve changed their minds—and that, thus, they could still be wrong. If you acknowledge that you’ve been wrong, instead of pretending we’ve always been at war with Eurasia, you’ll go a long way toward not driving people away from getting vaccinated.

Then, after dropping the hard-sell2, go on your way and be glad in your own vaccination. Encourage people to show their faces around you. Revel in the company of others without regard for whether they’re vaccinated or not. Treat your being vaccinated as a desirable thing. That’s the way to convince more people to vaccinate.

In the parent post, I wrote that “Government by coercion is barbarism. Civilization is defined by how little coercion the government relies on.” The best way to reinforce vaccine hesitancy is to use coercion. The best way to overcome vaccine hesitancy is to act like a civilized people.

People notice things like that.

In response to The new barbarism: A return to feudalism: The progressive left seems to have no concept of what civilization is, and of what undergirds civilization.

  1. Assuming, of course, that using smartphones on airplanes was dangerous, which, nihil novi, it’s turning out wasn’t true.

  2. Calling this a hard-sell is a misnomer. When salespeople do a hard-sell, they don’t force the product. They act as if the product is so popular you better buy now, or someone else will get it before you do. At least, that’s the kind of hard-sell salespeople use if they want to sell the product.

  1. <- Slavery is barbarism
  2. That’s a man ->