How do you counter this? (vaccination hold-off)

How do you counter vaccine hold-off?

I’m reminded of the story in “Tales of the South Pacific” about the antimalarial drug atabrine given to the allied soldiers in the Pacific theatre. According to the book there was a rumor that a side effect was impotence, so soldiers were reluctant to take the pill. The military put up a poster with “two Hollywood stars famous for their bedroom antics leering at each other, with the statement ‘We LOVE atabrine.’” (Not just fiction, I’ve seen pictures from that time and place with similar posters.)

Now if we only knew that a side effect of Covid was to make people impotent…

Athena Scalzi (the young adult daughter of SF author John Scalzi) wrote a blog post about her experience with Covid: she recovered fine, except that it really f***ed up her sense of taste.

I wonder if the prospect of a small chance of no longer being able to enjoy the food they love would be more motivating for some people than a small chance of dying would be.

It isn’t so much “ignorant,” per se, as overly-cautious. This is an example of the Precautionary Principle, which, in a nutshell, says that no changes should be made unless we can essentially guarantee that no damage whatsoever, no matter how minor, will be done by the change.

This is sometimes a good principle to follow. For example, Australia would be much better off if the people who introduced rabbits to the continent had followed that principle.

The difficulty lies in determining when it should be followed, and when it should not.

:arrow_up: This. :arrow_up:

Based on all the healthcare professionals I know, all the healthcare professionals who have written on the subject, and all the healthcare professionals I’ve heard speak on the subject, I strongly suspect that your Reddit acquaintance is a “healthcare professional” in the sense of someone who empties the wastepaper baskets and mops the floor in the doctor’s office after everyone has gone home. Or perhaps a “healthcare professional” who never reads the medical literature, but does watch a lot of Fox News.

Before the Jenner vaccine, from cowpox, people got inoculated against smallpox by getting material from smallpox sufferers. The side effects from this were quite serious - a not tiny percentage died. But smallpox was so rife, and so deadly, it still made sense.
George Washington, btw, pushed for this for his troops since the British did it and having a large percentage of his army down with smallpox was not a good way to win the Revolution.

I wonder if they smoke. I wonder if they eat fast food. Because if they do they are putting all sorts of nasty stuff in their bodies.
You might ask them when they think it will be safe. The initial test subjects have been vaccinated for 6 months or so now, and given that 100 million Americans have been vaccinated with no side effects so far (except for the ones right after vaccination) it seems a lot safer than Covid. You’ve already dealt with those side effects.

A noted expert weighs in on the relative wisdom of allowing COVID or vaccine into your body:

I, too, was going to link to the XKCD cartoon.

The answer is that you don’t have the choice of getting the vaccine or not doing anything. You have the choice of getting the vaccine, with a low risk of developing covid, or avoiding the vaccine in exchange for a much higher risk of getting covid. And we don’t know the long term risks of covid, either, but preliminary indications are that it’s much more dangerous, both short term and long term, than the vaccine.

Your first sentence is really the nub of the “hesitant” confusion. They’re choosing between one real option and one fantasy option. Unsurprisingly, in that case the fantasy option wins.

It’s only if they can be persuaded that the fantasy is a fantasy that you can move the conversation on to deciding between the real options on offer.

A desire to fervently believe convenient fantasies is a feature of human nature that many people excel at. Unfortunately.

Would ED be sufficient?

Erectile dysfunction risk 6 times higher in men with COVID

It might just push some people closer to getting the vaccine. In the meantime there are apparently rumors that the vaccine might prevent pregnancy: So much so that one news station included it in a debunking statement:

Non-physician healthcare professionals have long been resistant to vaccines, even before COVID-19. It may not make sense at first because these people often have good access to ask physicians about the safety and efficacy of the vaccine (over a lunch break or at the end of the day or something). On the other hand, if the practice they work in required vaccination (as most hospitals do), we wouldn’t be having this conversation.

The root concerns are valid, as you rightly acknowledge. I will quote from a qualitative study on nurses who refuse annual flu vaccinations, from a few years back:

“Reasons for declining influenza vaccination included a broad variety of themes that were structured into three recurring main themes. The first theme in the narratives was the strong emphasis of the interviewed nurses “maintaining a strong and healthy body”. The second theme described by nurses was the importance of “protecting decisional autonomy” in order to take care of themselves and others. The theme of “perception of an untrustworthy environment” illustrates the nurses’ perception of health authorities, pharmaceutical companies and scientists, which are often seen as opposing, non-trustworthy authorities. This view which seems to influence the nurses’ decision making process.”

If you are lucky a concern specific to COVID-19 or a particular vaccine will be contradicted by fact. If you are unlucky you must argue that the benefits of the vaccine outweigh the concerns. The healthcare professional may not have thought out how their vaccine refusal affects their patients or family. If you are very unlucky, you will realize that your associate is not ignorant at all, but operates under a different moral framework.


Pless, A., McLennan, S. R., Nicca, D., Shaw, D. M., & Elger, B. S. (2017). Reasons why nurses decline influenza vaccination: a qualitative study. BMC nursing , 16 , 20.

I know of one RN of the same mindset who only received the vaccine because it was required for continued employment at the hospital. She advises her (adult) children not to get vaccinated.


Just like wearing a mask, you get vaccinated not primarily to protect yourself, but to protect others. You take the tiny amount of risk to yourself, in order to prevent someone who is more vulnerable from getting COVID and having serious consequences. I can’t see not vaccinating (barring medical necessity) to be anything other than selfish.

I have found that the most effective counter to people who are mildly anti-vaccination or unsure is to quote Benjamin Franklin:

“In 1736 I lost one of my sons, a fine boy of four years old, by the smallpox taken in the common way. I long regretted bitterly and still regret that I had not given it to him by inoculation. This I mention for the sake of the parents who omit that operation, on the supposition that they should never forgive themselves if a child died under it; my example showing that the regret may be the same either way, and that, therefore, the safer should be chosen.”

Agreed. Max_S above put it very kindly as: " you will realize that your associate is not ignorant at all, but operates under a different moral framework."

I am not that kind, and will say that these those anti-vaxxers who are not simply ignorant of the facts are actually selfish shitty assholes. They are a drain on society, and when I become king, they will all be sent to live together on Selfish Shitty Asshole Island, where they can all do their own thing without any regard for others.

I wouldn’t show them that quote. When Franklin mentions inoculation, he is referring to variolation, the mid-eighteenth century equivalent of a COVID party for smallpox. They would scratch or cut the patient’s skin then rub in smallpox-infested scabs and fluids to deliberately induce the live disease.


@Max_S. I propose we combine Franklins variolation as you say with @Euphonious_Polemic’s suggestion about Selfish Shitty Asshole’s Island (“SSAI”)*.

The more we can get the non-vaxxers (be they hesitant, mild, or frothing) to hold COVID parties, the sooner they’ll be immune, invalids, dead, or maybe all 3. In any case they’ll cease being a threat to the rest of us. Which is really the overall goal of vaxs, masking, distancing, sanitizing, closures, and all the rest: to stop each of us from being a threat to all the others.

Just like moving them to SSAI would do.

* Pronounced like "eh-Sigh"; the best non-verbalization I can think of to describe so much of human nature. So much potential - so many obstacles.

I would sooner opt for mandatory vaccination.


"The second theme described by (vaccine-refusing) nurses was the importance of “protecting decisional autonomy”.

A nice way of characterizing the mindset “I don’t wanna and you can’t make me”.