Why We Need Vaccination Requirements: The D.C. Edition

When it comes to people failing to get vaccinated, there are two narratives. One, which has a lot of truth to it, is that ideologically-driven MAGA C.H.U.D.s refuse to get vaccinated. Like I said, this, to a considerable extent, is correct when you examine patterns of vaccination. But this doesn’t explain vaccine hesitancy in D.C.: we have something like three MAGAs total (okay, there are probably a few more, but not many). The ‘I lurves it when Tucker Carlson does a racism’ crowd can’t explain the low uptake east-of-the-river. It just can’t.

A second narrative is that people who aren’t ideologically-driven MAGA C.H.U.D.s aren’t getting vaccinated because of access issues. This very well might have been true when the vaccines were first released: in fact, it’s why D.C. went to a centralized distribution system early on, after the wealthy wards were heavily vaccinated. But in late September, that seems highly unlikely. Those who wanted to get vaccinated have done so–it might have taken longer than is optimal, but they’ve done it. Now we’re facing the ‘vaccine recalcitrant’, as this must-read Washington Post article about a vaccination drive conducted at House of Ruth details (House of Ruth helps victims of domestic violence; you should help them).

Most of the people at the drive, when spoken to beforehand, were reluctant to get the vaccine because they had concerns about its safety (boldface mine):

[House of Ruth director Sandra Jackson said she believes her staff and clients, who are mostly Black women, are hesitant to get the vaccine because they still don’t have access to information about the shots.

I’ve heard people have legitimate questions, and they just don’t feel like they’ve gotten the answers,” Jackson said. “I’m not saying the information hasn’t been out there, but sometimes people don’t know where to go and get the information, they don’t have someone right before them they can ask these questions to.”

That led House of Ruth to host the event, providing a space for staff and clients to ask questions about the vaccine….

Neither House of Ruth case manager Jasmine Daniel, 28, nor her 26-year-old client wanted the vaccine. But both attended the event on Friday just to get more information. Daniel, who said she has never even gotten a flu shot, said that she planned to take regular coronavirus tests to comply with the mandate until she could make up her mind on the vaccine.

Her client, who spoke on the condition of anonymity over fears for her safety, hadn’t gotten the vaccine because she was scared. She figured once it’s required for her retail job or to eat in restaurants, she’d get the shot.

“I’m just a big scaredy,” she said before joining the other women under the tent. “I don’t think there’s anything wrong with the vaccine, I think it’s probably more safe than anything, but it’s just something new, something that I just felt like I don’t really know too much about it.

The good news is that both of them decided to get vaccinated. The bad news is that these efforts, while the Lord’s work, do not scale and do not scale quickly enough:

While the organizers were pleased with the turnout, these sorts of clinics might not be enough to reach the unvaccinated. The unvaccinated population in Wards 7 and 8 is “shrinking very slowly,” said Ambrose Lane Jr., founder and chair of the Health Alliance Network in D.C. and a co-founder of the Black Coalition Against COVID-19.

I think that we are past the hesitation phase — I think that we are into the active resistance phase,” Lane said. “No amount of coaxing and webinars and education will change them,” he said, adding that vaccine mandates are what’s needed.

The city’s vaccine mandate for government employees and contractors does appear be pushing people toward vaccination, said Patrick Ashley, the head of emergency response for the city’s health department.

“We know that different things convince different people,” Ashley said, “but as more mandates come into place, more and more individuals are getting the vaccine.”

D.C. needs more vaccination requirements, if we truly want to turn this around.

The D.C. Council and Mayor Bowser, rather than being reactive, must govern. Unfortunately, I think they’re so out of their depth, they don’t even know what to do, even if they had the will to do so. If it helps, NYC Mayor DeBlasio had some good ideas; I have some here too.

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