Can Vaccine Reluctance and New Mutant Strains Prolong the Pandemic?

Jag Singh
5 min readDec 22, 2020

Although the vaccine brings hope; the reluctance of many to get vaccinated and the recent recognition of new strains (mutations) of the virus may pose a few challenges. Herd immunity may not be as close, as first imagined.

Vaccine Reluctance

Kudos to the scientists for producing a vaccine in such a short period of time. Truly, a remarkable technological feat. However, this effort remains plagued (no pun intended) by myths, misinformation, and mistrust.

Vaccine reluctance isn’t new — long before COVID, we’ve had anti-vaxxers standing steadfast against all vaccines, including the yearly flu vaccine. And while it may seem that these views are concentrated amongst a small proportion of extreme thinkers, the reality is that this reluctance — especially regarding the COVID vaccine — is widespread. In fact, it seems that nearly half of the United States population is likely to delay or decline vaccination despite regulatory approval. Moreover, 1 in 5 are unlikely to get vaccinated at all, and 1 in 4 would like to wait until they are more certain about the vaccine’s safety. People are nervous; are there side effects that we don’t about? Did we produce this vaccine too hastily?

The simple and unequivocal truth is, no. This vaccine has met the highest regulatory standards to ensure efficacy and safety, while also saving lives. The misinformation and myths that are circulating the internet must be put to rest. This vaccine has been produced through thorough and deliberate research; it will not alter one’s genetic code and it will not cause autoimmune diseases. These mistruths have sparked conversations that could severely undermine the positive and necessary impact of this vaccine.

As good as it may be to propagate knowledge, the spread of this misinformation through social media has been unnerving. Social media has a way of overamplifying any complication or adverse event that may be observed, however rare, and consequently, we are seeing a wave of reluctance. Since thousands of frontline workers, clinicians, prominent politicians, and other trusted celebrities have already received the first dose of the vaccine, there is hope that their freshly photographed band-aids will instill the necessary confidence in those held…

Jag Singh

Physician, Scientist & Professor at Harvard. Passionate about social issues, leadership, digital health & medical innovations. @JagSinghMD