Vaccine resisters can’t be persuaded if they feel disrespected

To understand vaccine skeptics, proponents need to understand that the skeptics typically don’t fear COVID. They may fear that taking the vaccine is, in some way, to consent to the view that their freedoms are dependent on compliance with public health. Arguing that the vax is the path back to normality and fewer public health restrictions backfires with skeptics, in my experience. They see consent to this view as a promise to willingly go under house arrest once a new variant hits the front-page headlines again. For them, excessive fear of COVID is the primary cause of public-health restrictions, and their refusal to take the vaccine is, in some small way, an attempt to model a life unruled by this fear...

Getting skeptics on board will require abandoning efforts that seem like open manipulation in defiance of the evidence. It will also mean leveling with people. An ad might acknowledge that indeed there aren’t long-term studies and cannot be any when we are responding to a sudden pandemic, but it could offer medical reasoning to trust that long-term health complications due to these vaccines are unlikely, given how few short-term complications there have been. A public-health campaign would give context to the information about vaccine reactions reported on the government’s own websites — such as the VAERs system — and explain how the government assesses them. In the absence of this, skeptics will take the word of whoever is willing to give this information context.

The American people are unruly and in a sour mood about their authority figures. The 40 percent of people who reported their initial hesitance have barely budged so far — despite millions wasted on public education and ham-fisted attempts to prevent them from sharing their concerns and fears. If vaccine advocates really do want vaccination uptake to increase more than they want to feel superior, they have to change course.