Catherine Toth Fox: How Attitudes Toward Covid Vaccines Have Changed - Honolulu Civil Beat


About the Author

Catherine Toth Fox

Born and raised on Oahu, Catherine Toth Fox is an editor, writer, children’s book author, blogger and former journalism instructor. She is currently the editor of HONOLULU Family and lives in Honolulu with her husband, son and two dogs. You can follow her on Instagram @catherinetothfox. Opinions are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect Civil Beat's views.

Opinion article badgeIt was mid-March 2021 and I sat in a plastic chair at Longs Drugs at Ala Moana Center, awaiting my first dose of the Moderna Covid-19 vaccine. I was so excited, so relieved, I actually cried.

At the time only 18% of the state’s population had received a first dose of any vaccine. Hawaii had reported 28,081 total cases—averaging 51 new cases a day—and 448 total deaths. Globally, there were more than 116 million confirmed cases of Covid-19, including 2.6 million deaths.

Mask-wearing was still required everywhere, schools were starting to implement hybrid learning after months of online only, the state’s Safe Travels program was in full effect, and many of us were slowly — if not reluctantly — starting to return to the office. (Remember: This was just before the delta variant surge.)

Though hotly debated, the Covid-19 vaccine was, for many of us, a godsend. People with Covid were really sick, suffering in hospitals, dying. This was how we were going to beat the virus, how we were going to get out of this crippling pandemic, how we were going to get back to some kind of normalcy. I was so grateful to get vaccinated — my mom is immunocompromised, my son has asthma — that I couldn’t see why anyone would pass up the opportunity. And it was free!

When the Federal Drug Administration authorized vaccines for kids 5 to 11 later that year, I immediately booked an appointment a few days after my son’s fifth birthday. It was, in my mind, the gift of health and — I was hoping — herd immunity.

People wait in line outside a Covid-19 vaccination site located at Windward Mall on August 24, 2021.
Long lines formed at Covid-19 vaccination clinics as people were eager to get shots when they were first introduced. But many are more hesitant when it comes to their kids. Cory Lum/Civil Beat/2021

I thought every parent I knew would do the same thing. We’re protecting our children from a virus that has killed more than 600 kids in this age group in the U.S. Over 13.6 million children have tested positive for Covid-19 since the start of the pandemic.

Turns out, I’m in the minority when it comes to vaccinating my child. Just over a quarter of children between ages 5 and 11 in the U.S are fully vaccinated, according to a New York Times database. (It’s 59% for kids 12 to 17.)

In an October 2021 survey from the Kaiser Foundation, many parents who hadn’t vaccinated their kids cited concerns about potential long-term side effects, including how the vaccine would affect their child’s future fertility.

The FDA approved vaccines for kids under 5 this week — and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has recommended them. But I’m wondering how many of the 20 million eligible children in the U.S. will actually get vaccinated.

It seems the trend for getting vaccinated is waning. According to the state Department of Health, 77.9% of the state’s eligible population is fully vaccinated. And though today’s Covid numbers are much higher (an average of 832 new cases a day) than they were back in March 2021 — when I was eagerly awaiting my first shot — only 41.2% of the population has received an initial booster shot, just 8.6% the second.

Are we getting complacent? Or are we just over Covid?

So I asked around. Most of my friends are vaccinated. But a few are waiting — for more data, for more information, for a compelling reason — to sign up their kids for the vaccine.

Then I got really curious.

I Googled, “Why are people opposed to Covid-19 vaccines?” That search came up with more than 1.3 billion results.

Reasons ranged from a general distrust in government to concerns about the speed at which these vaccines were created. Some believe Covid can’t kill the young and healthy. (It can.) Some think the vaccine will actually give them Covid. (It won’t.) And then there are others who are convinced the government is using vaccines as a way to implant microchips in us — with the backing of Bill Gates. (Interesting.)

Expectations for the vaccines have changed as variants emerged that appear more resistant to immunity, with breakthrough cases reported and some people even contracting the virus more than once.

Hope that the vaccines would eradicate the virus may have ebbed, but evidence is overwhelming that getting a shot usually prevents severe disease and death.

The truth is the majority of people in hospitals with Covid-19 are unvaccinated. So clearly the vaccine works. And unless more people get vaccinated, we’ll never reach the troublingly elusive herd immunity.

The longer people stay unvaccinated, the more chance a virus has to mutate. And let’s face it: Getting Covid sucks. I have friends who were stuck at home — and with their kids! — with fever, body aches and an irritating cough that stuck around for months. Some are going through Long Covid and suffering with fatigue, insomnia and brain fog.

I’m not here to tell you what to do with your life and health — and I’m certainly not an expert in epidemiology. (I can barely spell it.) But whatever you decide to do, make sure you do your research, consult your doctors, talk with your family.

We all have to make the best decisions for ourselves — while considering our responsibility to the greater community, too.

Unless you think Covid is fake. Then I can’t help you.


Read this next:

Denby Fawcett: Paid Ads Posing As News Stories Blur The Lines


Not a subscription

Civil Beat is a small nonprofit newsroom, and we’re committed to a paywall-free website and subscription-free content because we believe in journalism as a public service. That’s why donations from readers like you are essential to our continued existence.

Help keep our journalism free for all readers by becoming a monthly member of Civil Beat today.

Contribute

About the Author

Catherine Toth Fox

Born and raised on Oahu, Catherine Toth Fox is an editor, writer, children’s book author, blogger and former journalism instructor. She is currently the editor of HONOLULU Family and lives in Honolulu with her husband, son and two dogs. You can follow her on Instagram @catherinetothfox. Opinions are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect Civil Beat's views.


Latest Comments (0)

My attitude towards the vaccines and boosters was changed by my lung specialist, I have COPD and I am 68 years old. When I asked if I should take the second booster he said no. He said there is a lot of disagreement as to its effectiveness and how long it might be effective. He said unless the lastest strain starts to greatly increase hospitalizations and/or death he did not feel it was necessary at this time.

Stosh · 1 month ago

The best part is what you said here. "I’m not here to tell you what to do with your life and health — and I’m certainly not an expert in epidemiology. (I can barely spell it.) But whatever you decide to do, make sure you do your research, consult your doctors, talk with your family". That is a very good and clear statement all should have been saying. But for government and employers to tell other to get the jab or get fired is so antithetical to the norms and freedom in American. We all know that many social media platform removed and banned people (including very prominent and qualified doctors) because they had different views, facts and narratives. That was much more scary than Corvid itself. Give out all information and allow people to make their own choice.

Stopthemadness · 1 month ago

First, my family and I, including my children, were vaccinated and boosted at first opportunity. I am pro-vaccine. Second, herd immunity is a myth until a sterilizing vaccine is developed. There are and have been falsehoods on both sides of the vaccine and covid debate. People should talk to and follow the advice of their personal physicians on vaccines and any other health care issue.

See_Jane · 1 month ago

Join the conversation

About IDEAS

IDEAS is the place you'll find essays, analysis and opinion on every aspect of life and public affairs in Hawaii. We want to showcase smart ideas about the future of Hawaii, from the state's sharpest thinkers, to stretch our collective thinking about a problem or an issue. Email news@civilbeat.org to submit an idea.

Mahalo!

You're officially signed up for our daily newsletter, the Morning Beat. A confirmation email will arrive shortly.

In the meantime, we have other newsletters that you might enjoy. Check the boxes for emails you'd like to receive.

  • What's this? Be the first to hear about important news stories with these occasional emails.
  • What's this? You'll hear from us whenever Civil Beat publishes a major project or investigation.
  • What's this? Get our latest environmental news on a monthly basis, including updates on Nathan Eagle's 'Hawaii 2040' series.
  • What's this? Get occasional emails highlighting essays, analysis and opinion from IDEAS, Civil Beat's commentary section.

Inbox overcrowded? Don't worry, you can unsubscribe
or update your preferences at any time.