‘I’m not an anti-vaxxer’: This is what’s really driving vaccine hesitancy in young women
It may seem like an outlandish comparison – coronavirus is a highly-infectious virus, cancer is not. But Sophia’s logic aligns with some of the rhetoric we see being promoted by so-called ‘wellness’ influencers on a day-to-day basis. As Kaitlin Tiffany writes for The Atlantic:
“Instagram is women’s work, as it demands skills they’ve historically been compelled to excel at: presenting as lovely, presenting as desirable, presenting as good, safe, nonthreatening. All of which, of course, are valuable appearances for a dangerous conspiracy theory to have.”
It’s understandable to think you don’t need the vaccine if you’ve already had Covid-19. But, as Dr Doug Brown, Chief Executive at The British Society for Immunology, tells GLAMOUR, there are lots of benefits from getting the vaccine and having the boosters, even if you’ve already had Covid-19:
“Even if you’ve had Covid-19, the vaccination enhances, primes, and improves your immunity to reinfection. It doesn’t necessarily stop you from getting infected but it will prevent you from getting a severe disease (from reinfection), it will likely give you a longer period of immunity against reinfection, and – if you do get reinfected – it will reduce your chance of passing the virus onto others.”
Sophia also raises an important point about the potential side effects of the Covid-19 vaccine. As research recently confirmed a link between the vaccine and a less than one-day change in menstrual cycle length, it’s understandable that some people may want to do a little extra digging before having the jab.
On this point, Dr Doug Brown adds, “BSI information shows that the side-effects of Covid-19 infection far outweigh the risk of side effects of the vaccine. A number of the side-effects for the vaccine – for example, Myocarditis [inflammation of the heart muscle] – you’ve got a greater chance of having from a Covid-19 infection than you have from the vaccine itself.”
And yet, there’s still a very real concern shared by many women: who do we trust when it comes to our health?
Summer*, 26, works with a Community Benefit Society in a small village just south of London. It promotes mental and social wellbeing through connecting to natural surroundings. The community is highly critical of the Covid-19 vaccine. She describes her colleagues as “very distrustful and opposed to vaccination generally,” adding that many of them “haven’t had Coronavirus at all […] and are taking homoeopathic remedies for prevention which actually seem to be working.”
According to Summer, the main reason for this scepticism is “a mistrust of the power structures and governing bodies in our country.” She identifies that people in her community are wary of pharmaceutical companies, saying, “There’s so much money to be earned from selling vaccines, so it’s easy to see how people think they are just part of some experiment which will ultimately give more money to those who are already rich.”
As with Yas, it all boils down to a serious lack of trust towards the UK government. Summer explains, “I don’t want to be putting poison in my body or being controlled or told what to do by a government that I don’t trust, but it’s hard to know what the truth is anymore and even harder to oppose it when the majority of people are pro-vaccine.”
While there are many valid reasons why some young women are reluctant to receive the Covid-19 vaccine, it’s important to stress that there’s plenty of independent, evidence-based research about the vaccine available to the public.
The British Society for Immunology (BSI) is a great place to start, having released a comprehensive guide to Covid-19 vaccinations, which covers everything from what’s actually inside the vaccine to the overall safety of the vaccine.
The BSI’s Chief Executive, Dr Doug Brown, tells GLAMOUR:
“It’s OK to have questions about vaccination. There’s nothing wrong with having those questions and I would encourage people to go to a trusted, independent source of information to try and get those questions answered.”
“I would signpost people to the British Society for Immunology. We’re not a government department, we’re not a company, we’re a charity. We’re here to give as much accurate information as possible about the Covid-19 vaccine.”
If you’re concerned about the Covid-19 vaccine, you can find more freely available resources on The British Society for Immunology‘s website.
*Names have been changed to preserve anonymity.
**GLAMOUR was unable to find an official record of this letter.