The long-awaited COVID-19 vaccines are providing hope for many in the Wood River Valley, but some people in high-risk categories are rejecting it.
Last week, about half the staff at Silver Creek Assisted Living in Hailey said no to the vaccine—and they’re not alone.
South Central Public Health District Public Information Officer Brianna Bodily said false information in the form of conspiracy theories as well as ethical concerns due to the supposed use of fetal cells in vaccine development or production are primary reasons cited by those who decline to get the shots.
“The majority of suspicions have to do with the idea that people are being used as guinea pigs,” Bodily said. “But the Food and Drug Administration would not authorize the use of something unless it had been thoroughly vetted for safety.”
Bodily said clinical trials using 70,000 test subjects confirm the vaccine’s safety. Additionally, hundreds of thousands of shots delivered since rollout began several weeks ago have led to few if any negative reports, other than rare allergic reactions.
Bodily said another group of people rejecting the vaccine are doing so because they believe it could carry a “tracking device” that would somehow inform authorities about what other vaccines a person has been administered. She said some have come to believe that vaccines are carrying nanobots that could track a person’s movements and other activities.
“Most of these conspiracy theories have to do with suspicions about surveillance,” she said. “But these vaccines do not have that capability.”
Others rejecting the vaccine state ethical objections due to the prevalent use of human cells collected from abortions during the development or production of the vaccines, Bodily said.
Several COVID-19 vaccines in development have used cells from fetuses voluntarily aborted in the 1960s and 1980s to create quickly replicating “factories” of adenoviruses that are used to carry genes from the novel coronavirus that causes COVID-19, according to a report in the journal Science.
That’s not an uncommon technique, according to Dr. Meredith Wadman, the author of “The Vaccine Race: Science, Politics and the Human Costs of Defeating Disease,” published in 2017. Wadman wrote that the fetal cells gathered from elective abortions decades ago have also been used to develop vaccines against rubella, chickenpox, hepatitis A and shingles.
“When the adenoviruses are given as a vaccine, recipients’ cells begin to produce proteins from the coronavirus, hopefully triggering a protective immune response,” she wrote in Science recently.
However, neither the Pfizer nor the Moderna vaccines—those being administered in Blaine County—“use human cell lines that originated in fetal tissue taken from the body of an aborted baby at any stage of design, development or production,” according to a much-cited Dec. 21 article written by Sherri Blank for the University of Alabama at Birmingham.
Vaccines that have been rejected by staff or residents at nursing homes or elsewhere among the prioritized high-risk target group are being redistributed elsewhere, Bodily said.
“We schedule with facilities to make sure there are enough people for the vaccine we bring,” she said. “If something happens and we have any left over, that vaccine goes to the closest individuals who are next in line based on the priority list. If we drop off vaccines to a facility to do their own vaccinations, they are regulated by the immunization program and also expected to provide any leftover spots to individuals based on that priority list.”
For a list of frequently asked questions about COVID vaccines from the Centers for Disease Control go to cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/vaccines/faq.html.