Public opinion on vaccine is changing, doctors say more people are coming in to get their shot

Life experience and personal loss are leading to an increase in the number of people showing up at their doctor’s office requesting COVID-19 vaccines.

The Healthier Oklahoma Coalition, sponsored by the Oklahoma State Medical Association, hosted a panel of doctors Tuesday who said they are seeing the number of people who once proclaimed they would never be vaccinated now coming in to get the vaccine because of the recent COVID-19 Delta variant. In some cases, those initially opposed to being vaccinated had either lost a friend or family member, personally got sick and were now well enough to get the vaccine, or realized that with the COVID Delta variant causing an increase in illness and death, that the virus was not just an issue brought about for the 2020 Presidential election.

“A lot of these websites are doing a very good job at trying to discredit the people who are trying to help you the most,” said Dr. Mary Clarke, president of the OSMA.

Clarke said there are many websites and people on social media who have turned the science of vaccinations and basic disease prevention measures into political tools for their own person gain. She said doctors are busy saving lives and don’t have time to dispute every single post or story that is put out there by skeptics.

But doctors like Clarke have seen more people who at one time were adamant about never being vaccinated start to roll in after seeing the recent COVID Delta surge overwhelm hospitals and even kill off people they cared about. In some cases, people showed up at the hospital sick with a COVID infection and asked for the vaccine, but they were told it is too late at that point.

“The vaccine isn’t meant to keep you one hundred percent safe from getting COVID,” Dr. Woody Jenkins said. “It is supposed to and is now proven to keep you out of the hospital because you don’t get severe levels of the disease.”

“The number of people showing up to local hospitals needing care for a COVID infection who have also been vaccinated is just so small, it may not even be there. Vaccinated people just aren’t showing up needing hospital level care.”

FOX23 asked why the issue of vaccinations and masks became so political, and the doctors said it had a lot to do with the pandemic setting in during an election year.

“It was easy for many people to make this into a political issue when really it is not one,” said Dr. Jean Hausheer. “I think the further out we get from the election, the more people start to see just how real and non-political this is.”

Hausheer said with the COVID Delta surge starting last month, many people started to realize the virus is not going away and that it was still moving through unvaccinated individuals well after the election ended and people tried to return to normal life.

“I am seeing more people come in who at one time said they were never going to get it,” Clarke said. “In many cases, they had a personal experience with the virus, and it opened their eyes to the reality of what’s going on because they experienced it first hand.”

The doctors said while many people appear to have drawn their lines in the sand, it is personal understanding and experience that is causing those to change their minds.