“Well, I’ve heard that scientists and doctors are just guessing! They don’t know what they’re doing yet! We don’t know what they will put in our body with this injection. ”
It is my beloved grandmother, who is almost 95 years old, speaking here. She lives in a retirement home and has always followed the advice of her doctors. When her doctor told her to take two 30-minute walks a day, she put on her shoes. She was diligent in the routine of following up her cataract, no matter how much discomfort it caused. And she’s always kept up to date with flu shots and other recommended vaccines.
But recently she told me that she was planning to refuse the COVID-19 vaccine.
take in account the biomedical procedures and protocols in place, I would personally jump at the chance to get the vaccine and thus decrease the chances of infecting my grandmother – but I have to patiently wait my turn. The Canadian government has given priority to the elderly as part of the vaccination campaign due to the statistically high probability whether they are hospitalized, or even worse.
Queue or not, whether or not to be vaccinated remains the choice of the individual. A recent Statistics Canada survey found that older people (65 and over) are more willing to receive the vaccine than other segments of the population – this may be because many older people have personally experienced the positive transformation that accompanied the campaign of polio vaccination in the late 1950s.
But despite their general desire to be vaccinated, nearly 30% of older people have expressed reluctance to be vaccinated.
The reluctance of older people to get vaccinated differs from the strong anti-vaccination sentiment expressed by some baby-boomers, which is reinforced by viral videos and opinion pieces circulating in online communities and / or on favorite (social) media frequented by this generation. And in categorical anti-vaccination groups, there is a broader psychological distrust of dominant ideas and a clear attraction to them. conspiracy theories.
But that’s not what happens with my grandmother. Grandma doesn’t have a computer or cell phone, let alone the sight, joint mobility or technical knowledge to get carried away by the black hole of viral videos. She diligently watches the news channel almost 24/7, and she often told me that viewers are welcome to visit websites for more information on topics like vaccine, this that she can’t do. The only way for her to receive “more information” is to converse with others.
Seniors receive most of their information from their family caregivers.
The most likely explanation for her sudden distrust of vaccines is that the only person she has meaningful contact with these days is my mother, her caregiver. Both my parents are adamantly anti-vaccination. They too have chosen not to be vaccinated with the doses that will be offered in the weeks or months to come. After building up a lot of personal frustration and having several emotionally charged conversations, I have come to terms with the fact that it’s not for me to try to change my parents’ worldview – or, at least, that I don’t. don’t have the superhuman energy to convert them. In the end, we agreed to simply avoid the topic.
But I remain deeply concerned for my grandmother and all the other vulnerable people who have developed mistrust of the medical system. By having less access to digital platforms and (often) reduced mental ability Whether dealing with complex information or seeking alternative points of view, older people receive most of their information from their caregivers.
Even though I, and others in Grandma’s life, have tried to maintain regular contact during the pandemic, we have far less interactions with her than my mother.
A study found that being exposed to information repeatedly has a direct correlation with the propensity of older people to remember this information and assert its authenticity. Imagine how much more repetitive information has an impact when a person does not have access to outside opinions to counter rhetoric that the vaccine is underdeveloped, poorly tested, and ultimately dangerous. It breaks my heart, because her choice not to get the vaccine will undoubtedly put her (and possibly others) in great danger.
What can we do to offer more complete information so that they can make a wise and informed decision about the vaccine?
We must first educate ourselves through credible sources, and then share what we have learned with others – especially with those who may not have the means or the motivation to access it on their own. .
Fighting anti-vaccination sentiments was difficult enough before the pandemic. Believe me, I tried everything during the pandemic. Present evidence – for example, that clinical trials show that Pfizer’s vaccine is 90% efficient And the one of 95% modern – rarely manages to convince people whose “anti-vaxx” beliefs are tied to a larger worldview, like my parents.
We can’t just rely on medical staff. When Grandma’s long-term care home informed its residents of the vaccine deployment plan, they did not provide any information on the safety of the vaccine. I guess that’s because the staff are so overworked and overwhelmed right now that they can’t be expected to add “educating residents about vaccines” to their list. But, unfortunately, we cannot assume that older people will proactively access this information in any other way: we, their family members, have to provide it.
We need to balance these anti-vaccination views. We need to ensure that older people and other vulnerable populations receive more balanced information regarding the COVID-19 vaccine. We must first educate ourselves through credible sources, and then share what we have learned with others – especially with those who may not have the means or the motivation to access it on their own. . For my part, I wrote to the director of my grandmother’s retirement home and offered to create a short informational brochure using government resources that will answer questions about the safety of the vaccine that some older people might have.
As a university professor, I often think of education as something that happens formally in a classroom, between a teacher and students. But education can simply be through the conversations we have with members of our (virtual) social circles. Call your grandparents, parents, aunts, uncles and friends: see if they have any questions about the vaccine and see if / how you can answer them. Let us be united; we are all concerned.
This text originally published on HuffPost Canada has been translated from English.