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Editorial: Reluctance about COVID vaccinations unwarranted

For all the angst and consternation over vaccine supplies and how to prioritize recipients, it is becoming increasingly clear that public health officials fear that large pools of people simply don’t want to be vaccinated against the novel coronavirus.

This concern is evidenced in the parade of officials being publicly inoculated with the one-and-done Johnson & Johnson vaccine, which has, unfortunately, gotten a reputation in some circles as a “second-class” vaccine. (Minnesota’s health commissioner is among those who made a display of getting a J&J injection.) It is also evidenced in the calls for former President Donald Trump — who was, with his wife, quietly inoculated before leaving office — to publicly encourage his followers, many of whom are shunning the shots, to be vaccinated.

The Pentagon is reportedly concerned about the number of troops declining vaccination. The same is true among federal prison guards. Minority communities, which have been abused in health-related issues for generations, are wary of the vaccines even though the virus has hit them particularly hard.

And resistance is seen also outside the United States. Several European nations have paused inoculations with the AstraZeneca version of the vaccine over reports of blood clots — even though the clots have not been statistically higher than for non-vaccinated people or higher than with the use of birth control pills. (AstraZeneca has not yet applied for vaccine approval in this nation, although that is expected soon.)

The fact is, time is of the essence. One of the strong points of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine is that its recipients will be fully vaccinated weeks before those who get the two-dose shots from Pfizer or Moderna. Those weeks matter. It is also easier to handle and store than the rival vaccines.

But nuance works against the J&J shot. The statistics from the preapproval studies, at a glance, would suggest that the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines are more effective. The nuance is that the J&J vaccine was tested in regions where the new and more worrisome variants were emerging. The J&J vaccine may actually be preferable to the others, no matter the top-line numbers.

Vaccine hesitancy is hazardous to the public health. We cannot afford to have sizable demographic pockets — be they urban Blacks or rural Republicans — skip the vaccine and keep the pandemic going.

— Mankato Free Press, March 18

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Editorials from newspapers around the state of Minnesota.

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