SPRINGFIELD, Mass. (WWLP) – Having first been mentioned during the Covid-19 pandemic, “vaccine hesitancy” is being brought up again as Federal Health Officials attempt to have Americans get vaccines and boosters in an effort to keep the number of outbreaks lower than last year.

But, why is vaccine hesitancy so prevalent?

A study published in Nature Human Behavior released this month indicates factors prompting citizen choices:

  • New information (and misinformation)
  • Changing guidance and requirements
  • A volatile and changing epidemiological environment impacts risk perception and the need (or lack thereof) for vaccination

This study says that vaccine hesitancy is not a static state as any decision-making has various ups and downs. A person’s view might also change depending on different interpretations, but evolving information is always occurring.

“I think the driving force is misleading information,” Dr. Esteban DelPilar-Morales, Baystate Health, Infectious Disease. He says for the Black and Latino communities, getting information from reliable sources is the most difficult because they’re becoming harder to find. The language barrier is another setback.

There is also the mainstream anti-vax movement, which consists of many theories that may not be able to be put into practice. “It’s very challenging to address vaccine hesitancy because depending on who you are talking to, there is a different tactic,” he adds.

The study has shown that vaccine hesitancy is not a practicable concept. Additionally, new modes of analysis and measurement are to be needed around vaccine hesitancy. Since 2019, the World Health Organization (WHO) named vaccine hesitancy one of the top ten global health threats.

While those who have been vaccinated and regret it are due to other factors, such as how they will get re-infected with Covid-19. Dr. DelPilar-Morales explains, “people that are usually getting sick and ending up in the hospital are those not vaccinated or those with significant medical conditions. Even if they have the vaccines, they have a higher chance of getting complications compared to someone younger and healthier. “

According to CDC data, there were 64 new, confirmed deaths in Massachusetts reported in the last week. The average age of patients who died of Covid-19 was 81 years old. While 4,425 new confirmed cases were reported during the last 7 days. The 30 to 39 age group had the most cases with 1,268.

Dr. DelPilar-Morales says preventing a big cluster of cases from forming would involve people getting vaccinated. He discusses whether or not he thinks vaccine hesitancy will get any better or slowly disappear.

“I’m hoping that it gets better, unfortunately, I’m a little optimistic about that topic. Throughout the years we saw other vaccines that have been around for decades and there is still a number of reasons for people not wanting them,” Dr. DelPilar-Morales expresses.

However, a CDC Covid-19 vaccine hesitancy map shows that Massachusetts’s hesitancy rate is still lower than other states. An average of about 6% of people in Mass. are hesitant.

How many are hesitant in each western Massachusetts county, according to CDC:

  • Hampden County- 5.2% of people were found to be hesitant
  • Hampshire County – 4.65% of people were found to be hesitant
  • Franklin County – 4.88% of people were found to be hesitant
  • Berkshire County – 5% of people were found to be hesitant

As the nation moves forward and more people get vaccinated, there are two factors to keep in mind. Ensuring the vaccine does what it says it’s going to do and reverse effects keep to a minimum. “That will give people the confidence to say it works, it’s safe, and I can’t get it,” DelPilar-Morales said.

To find a vaccine or booster location near you can visit vaxfinder.mass.gov. Anyone age 5 or older that are fully vaccinated or has received a booster dose at least two months ago is eligible for the booster.

As of November 30th, 61% of those fully vaccinated have received a booster dose in Massachusetts.

  • Massachusetts residents fully vaccinated: 5,588,681
  • First booster doses administered: 3,407,600
  • Second booster doses administered: 1,381,668