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How to talk to your friends who won’t get vaccinated

| Thursday, April 1, 2021

I spent this past weekend feeling like a human garbage can. It was like my entire body was experiencing the Notre Dame-Alabama playoff game all over again while also getting clubbed in the head with a 9-iron. The only person who had a worse last few days than me is the captain of the boat that got stuck in the Suez Canal… maybe. If it sounds like I’m being overly dramatic, it’s because I am, but I don’t really care because I still feel kind of sick, and you’re just going to have to deal with it.

While many students might feel like this at some point during midterms, I had a much happier reason to be feeling under the weather. On Saturday, I was lucky enough to receive the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine, and I highly encourage all my peers to do the same. Yeah, the side-effects were rough, but that is a minuscule price to pay for receiving a vaccine that will help end this horrible pandemic. What continues to surprise me, however, is how many of my fellow students do not share this sentiment. To them, the vaccine isn’t worth it.

Oftentimes I find myself trapped in a conversation with someone who is unwilling to get the COVID-19 vaccine, and they’ll throw out some absurd article or “fact” they saw on Reddit to defend themselves. Like do they honestly believe that they have found something wrong with the vaccine that literally every single other scientist missed? On one hand, you have the most intelligent scientific experts in the world working around the clock to come up with a vaccine to stop a global pandemic, and on the other, you have Reddit user IHateMasks69. Listening to unqualified people talk about why they think the vaccine is dangerous is like watching two men debate the issue of abortion (yes, Notre Dame I’m looking directly at you; last week’s Right to Life debate was a joke).

Conversations with these people would frustrate me because I found myself ill-equipped to respond with my own source to counter their argument. So eventually, I decided to do some research and compile a list of responses you can give one of your friends when they pull out absurd conspiracy theories about the vaccines. Here is a list of arguments I’ve heard against getting the vaccine, and how I would recommend responding to them:

Argument: The COVID-19 vaccine will alter your DNA.

Response: What? No, it won’t. Not sure how this theory was cooked up, but it seems to have resonated with the anti-COVID-19 vaccine community. Let’s be very clear about this, no COVID-19 vaccine will mess with anyone’s DNA. The Moderna and Pfizer vaccines are what are called mRNA vaccines. These vaccines communicate with your RNA, teaching it how to create a protein that fights against the virus. This, you know, doesn’t impact your DNA in the slightest. You’re not going to turn into a lizard.

Argument: Ok, well even if the mRNA vaccines don’t impact your DNA, they’ve never been used before, so how do we know if they’re actually safe?

Response: There are two ways to address this. The first is to simply point out that literally all the world’s infectious disease doctors and immunization experts have been working on this for over a year, and it is highly unlikely that they all collectively missed a massive flaw in the mRNA vaccines. But I recognize that many anti-vax people will reject the international scientific community, so alas, we must move on to our second approach. mRNA vaccines have been used before — with high frequency and high rates of success. mRNA vaccines have been tested in humans to combat multiple infectious diseases such as rabies, influenza and cytomegalovirus (I don’t even know what this is, but it sounds like the lamest super villain ever in the Marvel Universe) and Zika. I don’t see how all of those could have been fine but the COVID-19 vaccine is somehow lethal.

Argument: The COVID-19 vaccine reduces fertility and threatens healthy pregnancies.

Response: Sigh. No, it doesn’t. Also, not sure how people came up with this, but it has been repeatedly debunked by medical experts. The weird part about this argument is that I’ve only heard it from men. The rumor is that the vaccine impacts a woman’s ability to get pregnant and have a healthy pregnancy. While this just isn’t true, why would that deter a man from getting the vaccine anyway? There are exactly zero substantiated reports that I can find that verify any of the vaccines interfere with fertility rates or pregnancy.

Argument: I don’t feel threatened by COVID-19 and don’t feel like getting the vaccine.

Response: Here is the central argument from the anti-COVID-19 vaccine movement. While many people may try to cover themselves with some of the above arguments, this is the core sentiment that drives their fear of the vaccine. It has never been easier to minimize the threat of the coronavirus. We’ve been dealing with COVID-19 for over a year, the weather is becoming nice again, sports are back, hospitalizations of COVID-19 are down and overall there seems to be a light at the end of the tunnel. Without a fear, it is easy to not get the vaccine, simply wait for other people to get the vaccine instead, and then ride their coattails out of the pandemic. The response to this argument is the most obvious one to make, but the most difficult one to convey. This is selfish. We, as students, faculty and staff, have the opportunity to get vaccinated on our campus; it’s quite literally in our own backyard. Getting vaccinated protects ourselves, our families and our community, and we owe it to each other to get the shot. It might be a pain, you may feel sick, it may be annoying, but it’s never been more worth it.

Clark Bowden is a senior Political Science Major. When he’s not sleeping through his alarm or reminding people that he studied abroad, he can be found in heated political debates or watching the Washington Nationals play baseball. He can be reached at [email protected] or @BowdenClark on Twitter.

The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.

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