Vaccine: When fear gets in the way


This text is part of our project “Vaccination Hesitation”.
Read the first article here.


Merced’s former CPE educator, when we spoke to him last December, was twice vaccinated against Covid. “It simply came to our notice then. I was not in favor, but I changed my tune to get access to a normal life again, to continue living in this crazy world. A

So he is skeptical of the vaccine, but not of the health system. “Before Covid, I was Mrs. Purel. I’ve worked with kids, so I don’t have to say I have to wash my hands. I am a responsible woman who does not want to be sick or sick. A

Chantal is therefore not one of the skeptics of Kovid. “Of course I believe it exists, I have lost a cousin and a 61-year-old boyfriend.” “Because of my experience with vaccines”, and because “I have a strong enough system; I said to myself, when we get sick, we will take care of ourselves.”

Hesitation is normal

In addition to the mistrust of the authorities, those who are hesitant about the vaccine have talked to us in previous articles, the fear of vaccines is an additional factor that should be taken into consideration.

Fear of the vaccine is not new, confirms health historian and University of Montreal professor Lawrence Monais. It goes back to the beginning of vaccination: “Shyness is natural and always exists”.

In 1885, for example, there was a scene of Quebec riots following the decree mandating vaccination against smallpox.

And since the 1950s, the sciences and technologies surrounding vaccination have advanced so rapidly that the public has not been able to fully adapt to them.

According to him, the importance of educating the public about the purpose of immunization and establishing a dialogue with those who are hesitant: the way to consider when promoting immunization, as far as possible from ethical or restricted discourse.

“Apart from the authoritarian approach of the state to vaccinate, we need to develop tools and other means of working,” he said. There are also health and accessibility issues in disadvantaged neighborhoods, ”recalls the health historian. “Many fear that it will be difficult for them to express themselves in the face of the health authorities, except for criticism of the pharmaceutical industry, which needs to be heard. A

Same fears and same questions

The same fears, the same fears and the same questions often come up throughout the interviews for this series of reports. Much more than the anxiety associated with covid, it is the vaccines that cause the anxiety.

For example, Chantal, 52, who vaccinated twice against covid, but blamed meningitis, said his daughter had almost died from her recent vaccination. Or Caroline, 45, who describes a long list of side effects she suffers from after her modern 2nd dose: fever, joint pain … “This is my worst illness in five years,” she says. And he even believes that the Pfizer vaccine could be responsible for his father’s death in March 2021. “He was 72 years old and in good health, despite having high blood pressure and diabetes. Shortly after the vaccination, he had a heart attack. The doctors told me that he was “at the end of his life” and that his health was failing, which was a funny coincidence and asked me a lot of questions about the vaccine.

Many hesitant people insist that these will not be “classic” vaccines – and that innovation often spreads in the mouths of hesitant people, “in a hurry” and “ignorance of the real effects”. We imagine a little burdensome technology with horrible side effects.

“A few days after I was vaccinated in January 2021, I was infected with the virus and I got really sick,” said Mohamed from Villarreal. I had a pulmonary thrombosis, I had a test for my lungs and my heart was not good. I did it but I have to take lifelong medication for my heart. I don’t know if it’s a covid or a vaccine “(note that the vaccine traditionally takes one to two weeks before it becomes effective). “But as a precaution, I did not go to take my second dose,” the 62-year-old added.

Side effects of the vaccine in the short or long term are of most concern to those who are hesitant. But interviews show that this fear was well-anchored in many of them before the epidemic.

Mohammed agrees: He is always skeptical about vaccinations, even if his fears are directed at the most recent. “Vaccines for children, such as measles, have been proven and my children have been vaccinated. The covid vaccine is being tested. We do not yet know the long-term consequences of this vaccine, “said the man, who has two immunized adult sons.

Isabel, 42, added: “I don’t immediately believe in vaccines and they don’t have the same form as others.” “What slows me down is when it’s new. He mentions the RNA vaccine because “we don’t have enough experience with this technology. On social networks, people testify to all sorts of things and it makes me very insecure.

However, he cites AstraZeneca as an example, although it is not an RNA vaccine. “That’s the last thing I wanted.” He would prefer to wait for the Quebec plant-based vaccine, Medicago, if he decides to get vaccinated one day.

Fear for her children

Children are considered more vulnerable to vaccines and, at the same time, more resistant to the disease: “It is better to build up their immunity” naturally, parents think.

This dilemma for parents is a classic, summed up by চিকিৎসাve Dube, a medical anthropologist at the National Institutes of Public Health in Quebec. It stems from their perception of natural health and their ability to control infections through good living habits. “It is often found in well-known, university-educated parents. A

He has documented this “classic” dilemma for a long time. In a survey published in 2013, Professor Dubey and his colleagues have already noticed an increase in the perception that vaccination is dangerous and unnecessary.

In another study, in 2015, she focused more specifically on future mothers who were reluctant to vaccinate their children. The reasons that made them hesitant were very different – from the desire to let nature take its course (hence the disease) to the dangers of vaccines.

These mothers do not necessarily agree with the recommendations of the public health authorities. But they believe that natural immunity is improved from what was acquired through vaccination. In addition to believing, children’s bodies are able to manage illness, especially when they have a healthy lifestyle.

Since covidosis affects children less severely, it raises doubts about their suitability for vaccination.

Vaccination - Small Figure 2

“My 12-year-old daughter has not been vaccinated yet,” Ouarda mentioned when we spoke to her in December.

“All my fears are related to him and we will wait as long as possible. My husband and I were vaccinated – I had no choice because my elderly parents live in Algeria and we want to be able to travel fast – but I still have a lot of questions about this new vaccine, “he added.

In Ouarda’s family, everyone has an early vaccine. “My daughter has all her vaccines. I like to wait for it. It’s an exception.”

“Even if everyone is aware of the dangers of this disease, the vaccine will be kept in balance. They will do it for themselves but will hesitate to vaccinate their children, ”Eve Dubey summed up.

Supporting a parent’s decision to be vaccinated

Isabel, who “doesn’t believe in vaccines immediately”, is the mother of a baby who was seven months old when we spoke to her in December, and a 14-year-old girl. Her daughter has been vaccinated. “At his age, he has the right to decide for himself. I just asked him why, but I didn’t push him. He chooses for himself. “

On the other hand, she still did not know if she would follow a childhood immunization schedule for her youngest child. He was already late for vaccinations given at 2 and 4 months, including diphtheria, pneumococcal and rotavirus vaccines. “I would do it if needed for day-care, for some ailments that might come back: whooping cough, measles. We have good genetics and this is a healthy baby. Does it speak to my maternal instincts? A

“It’s very emotional and it’s not easy for parents to change their minds,” said Arnaud Gagneur, a pediatrician and researcher at Sherbrooke University’s Faculty of Medicine. “Traditional methods of vaccination information do not work well for those who are hesitant. All you need to do is talk to them from birth onwards. “

Traditionally, the parent rate has been around 40% – depending on the vaccine, it may vary – 15% are very hesitant and 5% disobedient to the vaccine.

Mr. Gagneur developed the Promovac strategy: a separate informative session based on the principle of motivational interviews (Maternal Motivational Interview for Child Immunization Or EMMIE). “We respond to the real need for information, with kindness and listening – we only answer questions asked by parents and we help dispel suspicions so that families can make informed decisions about vaccinating their children,” he said.

According to a survey published in 2019, the proportion of parents most willing to vaccinate their child among the most hesitant will increase the EMMIE program by 12%. It will soon be implemented in all maternity wards in Quebec.

Will the epidemic change? “It simply came to our notice then. There is a crisis of confidence with the health authorities and even a social crisis. We can see what is happening on social networks, it has ignited all these infodemic epidemics and we can see the rigidity of the position. A

Even for health professionals, it is very difficult to distort all these false beliefs. “Many parents prefer natural living, take alternative products and vaccination is not one of them. We must not judge or oppose their values, but we must remind them that vaccination is a natural process that reproduces nature to stimulate immunity, “said Dr. Gagneur.

Note: Some first names have been changed to meet the request of anonymity requested by some people.

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