John Burnett / NPR
West Hansen drives his muddy subaru through the industrial landscape of southeastern Texas where he grew up – the silver art tower of the Bible Church, donut shop and refinery of the past. The longtime social worker says she has given up trying to convince her clients how safe the COVID-19 vaccines are.
“I’m tired of it,” he said. “I understand that once their minds are formed, no one can be trusted.”
He pulls up to the neatly trimmed yard of a townhouse where Donna and Danny Downs are waiting for him in their living room. He is a house work administrator for a fence contractor; He is a retired insurance salesman who is legally blind. They are devout Baptists.
“We don’t like vaccines because we think if we stay healthy … we have more immunity,” he says. “And if we get it, we think it’s God’s will, and so we leave it to Him alone.” The virus killed Donner’s sister and sent her husband to the hospital, but they resisted taking their shots.
“We just think it’s a big government thing where they’re trying to control the public,” Danny said.
About 66% of Americans are fully vaccinated. But since the United States has nearly one million deaths from COVID-19, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the virus’s mortality rate is largely driven by people who have not been vaccinated. According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, nationally, one in six Americans says they will “certainly not receive the vaccine.”
“One of the things that really matched all of our surveys was the size of the groups that said they were definitely not getting vaccinated,” said Liz Hamel, vice president and director of public policy and survey research at KFF. “It hasn’t moved in more than a year.”
“Those who have probably said they are not going to be vaccinated are Republicans and people living in rural areas, as well as white missionary Christians,” he said.
Kaiser’s survey found that 20 percent of those who say they would never receive the vaccine are identified as Democrats or politically independent, and 28 percent live in cities or suburbs.
Hansen, a 60-year-old social worker who has done this for almost half of his life, says his clients are often elderly people who need help with their daily lives. Its role is to inform them about the government benefits and services they can access, including free vaccines.
“This uneasiness towards vaccination flies in the face of the fact that their family members have died in Kovid,” he said. “They openly say, ‘Yes, my brother died in Covid,’ or ‘My mother died in Covid,’ and they still do not fully know the vaccine, which is a possibility for them.”
In another call that day, Hansen parked in front of a ramshackle house at the end of a wooded, dirt road. There are cats and litter inside the room. A couple, after bathrobes, lie in front of the TV, waiting for him.
Faye, a 57-year-old retired graphic designer, has asked not to use her last name because she suffered a stroke last year and wants her medical privacy.
“Yes, we had the polio vaccine a few years ago and it worked well,” he said “The measles vaccine worked well. But I don’t know how long it took to get these vaccines … I felt that the vaccine came out very quickly after Kovid was infected.”
Faye said he was bedridden last October due to a stroke. He was hospitalized earlier this year due to Covid’s complications.
“To find out months later, after people get vaccinated, they’re still getting covid,” he says.
Over the weekend, Hansen met Betty and Mike Spencer, a retired teacher and a truck driver who lives in the country near the San Marcos River in Central Texas. Spencer frankly admits that he believes in conspiracy theories. Mike says he sees Alex Jones’ informants and disbelieves the accepted statements about the Kennedy assassination and the 9/11 terrorist attacks.
“You know,” he said with a smirk, “there are a lot of people who say that the difference between a conspiracy theory and the truth is six to eight months.”
Regarding the vaccine, Mike says he thinks it was designed as a “demobilization tool.”
“I think it has to do with the human relationship between nanotech and transhumanism and the Internet-of-Things – with 6G finally coming after 5G – where you’re always biologically tuned to the Internet.” He said.
For the record, COVID-19 vaccines are FDA-approved, and recommended by the CDC because they are safe and effective in preventing serious or fatal cases of the virus.
Not all of Hansen’s clients distrust Sui. Elizabeth Yaher is a 78-year-old retired hairdresser who has been vaccinated. When the social worker arrives, he is watching TV with his La-Z-Boy family.
“I’ve seen a lot of people die of covid. So it seems foolish to me not to want to be vaccinated,” he insisted.
According to recent data from the KFF’s COVID-19 Vaccine Monitor, bias and political ideology play a much bigger role in the decision to vaccinate than scientific evidence. In the poll, 56 percent of Republicans and 92 percent of Democrats said they had been vaccinated. The non-vaccinated people quoted in this story all say that they voted for the Republicans in the last election. During epidemics, the confusion over vaccines has become widespread. According to a separate KFF report, more and more people distrust the mainstream media and choose their own source of truth.
“I mean, they’re mainstream,” says Faye, a retired graphic designer. “They just say what the government wants them to say. I’m not stupid.”
Asked where she got her news, Donna Downs said, “I don’t really watch any news broadcasts,” she says. “I just do a lot of research, and those I trust feel the same way, I follow.”
When the vaccines were available a year ago, Hansen thought they were a godsend because many of his clients were elderly, with pre-existing medical conditions. But as vaccines become more political, he has seen his clients reject each other.
Hansen says, “It’s just shocking.” I mean, you’re proposing to give a drowning person a hand and they’ll slap it and they suspect you might be able to pull them ashore. It’s very confusing. “
John Burnett / NPR
Hansen’s frustration is matched by Kenneth Coleman, director of Beaumont’s public health department. He says more than half of the residents in Jefferson County – Beaumont’s largest city – have been fully vaccinated, a rate that follows states and nations. His office is urging people to get vaccinated.
“Beaumont isn’t really a big city,” Coleman said. “So not too far away in Beaumont. For those who want it (they) got it. And for those who didn’t get it (they) don’t want it.”
In his 30 years with the department, Coleman says he has never seen so many people so opposed to common sense health practices. Today, he is concerned not only about another deadly covid alternative, but also about the fundamental loss of confidence in public health services.
What if there is an outbreak of measles, meningitis or tuberculosis?
“People are calling me,” he continued. “Well, I don’t believe anything called CDC.” . ‘”