S. Williams  | Black Voice News

This commentary is part of a nation-wide focus on Wednesday August 18, 2021, spearheaded by the Boston Globe, to comprehensively debunk myths about vaccines and identify other barriers to vaccination in communities across the country.

What we fear doing [the] most is usually what we most need to do.

–          Tim Ferriss

I understand hesitancy. I was hesitant.

I understand the skepticism. I too was skeptical. I understand mistrust, as an African American, the roots of mistrust regarding the medical community is based on our history as a people in this country. And, I understand but disagree with the fervent anti-vaxxers as well as those who legitimately oppose vaccines for religious reasons.  

But I am a senior with health vulnerabilities, a network of family and other loved-ones I would never want to put at risk, and grandchildren too young to be vaccinated so I am grateful despite my initial reservations that I made the decision months ago to be vaccinated.

I now question what I can do to encourage others to do the same. I wonder what it will take to move people from their incalcitrant resistance to the only way out of this unforgiving and deadly pandemic, to take the COVID-19 vaccines.  

What has happened here in America is the coming together of a strange, perverse and unfortunate coalition of resistance to vaccines. It includes right-wing extremists, anti-vaxxers, some in the African American and other minority communities who remain distrustful of the government and/or medical community, and disingenuous politicians, with the viral dissemination of  anti-vaccine propaganda on social media.

Although more than 4.74 billion shots have been injected into arms worldwide and harmful effects remain almost negligible by comparison, resistance to the vaccines persists.

The surest way to combat the numerous rumors, disinformation, and conspiracy theories is through  the equally aggressive dissemination of fact-based information. However, just as we know the adage, “good news travels fast,” we are also keenly aware of the reality that, “bad news travels faster.”

Pushing Back Against Disinformation and Conspiracy Theories

In response, social media platforms must continue to do their parts to identify and remove anti-vaccine propaganda; however there is no silver bullet to mitigate this dilemma. Until we reach the still elusive herd immunity with about 75 percent of the population being vaccinated, the virus will continue to spread and mutate. Just as we are now experiencing with the Delta variant, mutations—depending on their impact–may drive a need for vaccine booster shots, helping to further complicate the conversation around vaccinations for those who remain unvaccinated.

At this point, perseverance in the national effort to encourage the unvaccinated to take the vaccine is a must. Consumers rely on the media to continuously use its platform to combat disinformation and conspiracy theories just as they rely on social media platforms to do their part in this regard. Politicians, church and other civic leaders also have a part to play and should continue using the bully pulpit to dispel rumors and disinformation while also advocating for vaccine acceptance.  

Everyone Has a Role to Play in Combating Disinformation and Conspiracies

As individuals, it is incumbent on each of us to encourage family members and friends to trust the science, to listen to the credible voices in their community, to open our hearts to the people suffering and dying of the virus every day, and to remember the magnitude of the loss—more than 3.8 million lives around the globe (including 614K here in the U.S.) and counting.

Each of us must do our part to dispel rumors and challenge falsehoods about the vaccines while at the same time, encouraging the hesitant to get vaccinated. Doing so, may not only save their own lives but also the lives of those with whom they come in contact.

Of course, this is just my opinion. I’m keeping it real.  

Stephanie Williams is executive editor of the Black Voice News and IE Voice. She is a longtime champion  for civil rights and justice in all its forms. She is also an advocate for government transparency and committed to ferreting out and exposing government corruption. She has received awards for her investigative reporting and for her weekly  column, Keeping it Real. Contact Stephanie with tips, comments. or concerns at myopinion@ievoice.com.