Public Health Officials Blew Up Their Credibility, and We’re Paying the Price
With COVID-19 still sickening and killing people even though effective vaccines have been widely available for all since the spring, it’s frustrating to see vaccination rates creep up only slowly against a head-wind of widespread resistance. It’s even more frustrating that much of that resistance can be attributed to self-inflicted wounds on the part of public health experts and government officials. Having effectively discarded their own credibility since the beginning of the pandemic, the powers-that-be find that much of the population no longer places faith in what they have to say.
“Why aren’t tens of millions of eligible Americans fully vaccinated against COVID-19?” The Economist and YouGov asked in a recent poll. “Most who haven’t started the vaccination process say it’s a matter of trust.”
“Americans who are sure they will not get the vaccine are especially likely to say their lack of trust in the government is their major reason for rejecting the vaccine,” the polling firm adds, with 22 percent of respondents giving that as their reason for refusing vaccination, second to concerns about side effects.
Critics are certain to wave off the findings as the unfounded concerns of low-information knuckle-draggers who need to be poked and prodded into compliance. But, while such dismissal may confer a warm and fuzzy feeling of superiority, it doesn’t explain why health professionals also have lost faith in public-health officials.
“Trust in the CDC and FDA has decreased dramatically during the COVID-19 pandemic among health care professionals,” WebMD/Medscape noted in June. “Out of nearly 2,000 U.S. nurses surveyed on Medscape (WebMD’s sister site for health care professionals) between May 25 and June 3, 77% said their trust in the CDC has decreased since the start of the pandemic, and 51% said their trust in the FDA has decreased. Similarly, out of nearly 450 U.S. doctors surveyed in the same time period, 77% said their trust in the CDC has decreased and 48% said their trust in the FDA has decreased.”
Respondents to the WebMD/Medscape poll cited concerns about politics affecting public health decisions as well as contradictory messaging about masks, vaccination, and proper conduct to avoid infection. Both of those concerns were on display last year when public health officials went from condemning anti-lockdown protests to promoting protests against police brutality and racial injustice.
“Are Protests Dangerous? What Experts Say May Depend on Who’s Protesting What,” The New York Times headlined an article on the whiplash-inducing change in messaging over the potential health risks of public gat
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