Vaccine Confidence Post Full FDA Approval

By: Keenan A. Mount


Now that the Pfizer-BioNtech coronavirus vaccine has received full approval from the FDA, we are left to assess what this means for the general perception of vaccination as a response to this pandemic. Will this lead to a significant change in thought among those unvaccinated? No, I don’t believe it will.

In order to understand why I believe this, I must first explain the fanaticism that appears to be common amongst those that are unwilling to vaccinate. The 14 percent of unvaccinated that say they will “definitely not” be getting vaccinated, a statistic offered by KFF, are the majority amongst the unvaccinated and all seem to maintain this fanatic belief system. The groundwork for this system is a form of logic that is the antithesis to rational thought.

Anecdotally, I saw many of those unwilling to vaccinate cite the emergency approval as their reasoning. However, these fanatics will cite the most reasonable explanation, and once that reasoning becomes defunct they will do mental gymnastics to replace it. Occum’s razor be damned.

This is evidenced, albeit anecdotally, by a recent crowd response at a Trump rally in Alabama. The mere suggestion and support of vaccination from Donald Trump was met with boos. This doesn’t mean they lost any admiration for Trump but merely that they will have to figure a way to excuse this pro-vaccine rhetoric via a convoluted QAnon conspiracy.

So despite the optimistic outlook of the Vaccine Confidence Project, who believe the full approval of the FDA will serve as an “important confidence builder,” I don’t foresee this having a significant impact on the unvaccinated. It may remove talk of the vaccine being “experimental” but that vacuum will only be filled by another talking point that will be further removed from reality. Due to the fact that this issue seems to only have two positions, there aren’t many fence-sitters to be swayed.

What can we do then? On an individual level, we must remember that being hostile to fanatics will only alienate them more and cause them to recede deeper into their echo chambers. On an institutional level, the focus on accessibility continues to prove to be the most effective. Addressing the unwillingness to vaccinate on an institutional level is more difficult as there is a general distrust of any institution baked into their mentality.

This isn’t to say the full FDA approval will have no effect. In fact, 10 percent of those polled as of July 2021 fell into the wait and see category per KFF. I have a generally optimistic outlook in regards to this issue, but I would sooner cite time and its ability to find an equilibrium as the defining factor rather than a full FDA approval.

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