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Perspective: Anti-science or anti-government? The roots of vaccine hesitancy

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Why is one in four adults in the US still unvaccinated against COVID? To many, vaccine hesitancy defies logic. A simple shot — well, three shots — helps protect people from serious illness and death.

No doubt the cynical Republican politicians who parrot the right wing media’s lies about vaccines can be held partly responsible. However, studies have found that many of the hold-outs are not ignorant of the science behind vaccines.

For many, the problem is the government. People are on their own now for health care. This has been true since the 1980s, when Reagan eliminated many community and public health programs initiated during Johnson’s war on poverty in the 1960s. When the programs that had been helping them disappeared, so did people’s trust in the government.

This is one reason cited for why many, especially those who live in underserved communities, have been cynical, even suspicious, of the COVID vaccine campaigns. Why is the government here now with a vaccine, when they’ve ignored us for so long?

What can be done to change this? Repairing the broken public health system is vital and would help to restore faith in government. And passing the Build Back Better act would ease some of the circumstances that lock people into poverty - the food deserts, inadequate housing, and poor access to medical care. It’s not fast or easy work, but the results of continuing neglect are clear — and devastating.

I’m Deborah Booth and that’s my perspective.

Deborah Booth retired in Fall 2014 from NIU, where she was the director of External Programs for the College of Visual and Performing Arts.