They Resisted Getting Vaccinated. Here’s Why They Changed Their Minds

In The Media

October 16th, 2021
Mandates have prompted a surge in vaccinations among those who had held out.
Some report feeling relief; others, anguish and resentment.

In the Bronx, a youth counselor closed his eyes and steeled himself for the shot. In Queens, a nurse calmed herself by humming gospel music. In Manhattan, a graduate student asked one last question about fertility while reviewing the consent form.

With a mixture of nervousness, resentment and, sometimes relief, hundreds of thousands of New Yorkers finally got a dose of coronavirus vaccine in recent weeks. In some cases, it was because they had a change of heart; perhaps more commonly, it was to keep their jobs.

The uptick in vaccinations has contributed, experts say, to a flattening of the virus curve in New York City, where the numbers of new infections and hospitalizations have been falling — a trend across the United States as well.

Yet with winter approaching, public health experts are watching closely for yet another rise in infections. New York’s vaccination rate is higher than that of the country as a whole, with two out of every three residents fully inoculated. Still, about one million adult New Yorkers have not gotten at least one vaccine dose.

n recent months, the vaccination rates among Black and Hispanic New Yorkers, which had lagged behind those of white and Asian residents, have climbed. But Black residents 18 to 44 remain far less likely to be vaccinated than adults in other groups.

The New York Times interviewed 10 New Yorkers who only recently got vaccinated to find out why they waited so long.

Many cited employer mandates as a major factor. A number of large companies have required employees to get vaccinated, and in the past three weeks, New York State has demanded it of all health care workers. New York City has forced teachers do the same, while requiring all other municipal employees to get vaccinated or undergo regular virus testing.

Some of the newly vaccinated New Yorkers said the mandates were coercive and had left them upset and even more distrustful of government.

Others said they got vaccinated in solidarity with relatives who were doing so, or because a recent bout with Covid-19 had made them feel vulnerable. Some said they were glad to get it over with.

“I would go to church with my kids, and I would hear someone cough and I would startle,” said Cilotte Lovinsky, a hospice nurse, who was vaccinated in September. “Now I feel comfortable.”

Here is ICL staff Xibelli Valdespino’s story:

Last December, four generations of Xibelli Valdespino’s family, from her 7-year-old son to her 86-year-old grandfather, gathered for Christmas Eve. Within a day, they began testing positive for Covid-19. Her grandfather soon died, and her mother struggled to breathe. Ms. Valdespino felt so ill she wondered whether she would ever recover.

For a long time after, she was angry: at God, at the pandemic, at herself.

“Maybe if I had taken this more seriously and we had not all gathered together for Christmas, maybe my grandfather would be here,” said Ms. Valdespino, a case worker whose clients are people with mental illness.

Yet her initial response was to reject the vaccine. She worried about side effects. She had also encountered strange and untrue conspiracy theories on social media and was unable to dismiss them. The vaccines magnetized people, causing spoons to stick to your body, according to one. The vaccines lowered the quality of your blood, according to another.

(While a small number of recipients have developed rare blood disorders or blood clots in the brain, experts say, the vaccines are safe for the overwhelming majority of people.)

“Things like that you hear every day and you just start getting scared,” Ms. Valdespino said.

But she also saw that people everywhere were getting vaccinated without turning ill. And the pandemic was not simply going away. One variant appeared after another. She began to think about getting vaccinated as less of a personal decision, and more as a communal project.

“We all have to do this all together,” she said. “So we can see another day and move forward with our lives.”

At work, Ms. Valdespino saw just how isolated many of her clients had become during the pandemic. Last week, one of them, a former teacher, seemed overwhelmed with gratitude when Ms. Valdespino, one of the woman’s few connections to the outside world, came to see her.

Ms. Valdespino kept replaying the visit in her mind. Until more people were vaccinated, she realized, far too many people would remain cut off.

“We’re only going to keep suffering if we don’t all get on the same page,” she said.

On Tuesday, she walked into a CVS in the Bronx and got a shot.

Read the full article here.

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