CHICAGO – They admitted they could have shown up months ago. Many were content to finally do the right thing. Some grumbled that they had no other choice.
In a single day last week, more than half a million people in the United States flocked to high schools, pharmacies, and buses being converted into mobile clinics. Then they rolled up their sleeves and got their coronavirus vaccines.
These are the Americans who are being vaccinated at this moment of the pandemic: the reluctant, the fearful, the hesitant.
In dozens of interviews Thursday in eight states, at vaccination clinics, drug stores, and pop-up mobile sites, Americans who had finally arrived for their vaccinations offered a snapshot of a nation at a crossroads – facing a new surge in the virus but just slowly embrace the vaccines that might stop it.
The people who are being vaccinated now are not among the eager crowds that rushed to early appointments. But even they are not decidedly against vaccinations in the group.
Instead, they occupy a middle ground: they have been unwilling to get a coronavirus vaccine for months until something or someone – a stubborn family member, a job requirement, a growing sense that the shot was safe – convinced them otherwise.
How many people ultimately join this group and how quickly could determine the course of the coronavirus in the United States.
Some of the newly vaccinated said they made the decision abruptly, even casually, after months of inactivity. A woman in Portland, Oregon waited for an inducement before getting her syringe, and when she heard a pop-up clinic at a farmers market were giving out $ 150 gift certificates, she decided it was time . A 60-year-old man in Los Angeles came over spontaneously to be vaccinated when he noticed that, for once, there was no line in a clinic. One construction worker said his work schedule made it difficult to get the shot.
Many people said they arrived after strong pressure from family or friends for a vaccine.
“‘You’re going to die. Get the Covid vaccine,” Grace Carper, 15, recently told her mother, Nikki White of Urbandale, Iowa, as they discussed when they would get their vaccinations. Ms. White, 38, woke up on Thursday up and said she would. “If you want to get your vaccine, get up,” Ms. White said to her daughter, who was looking forward to the vaccination, and the couple went to a Hy-Vee supermarket together.
Others were moved by practical considerations: plans to attend college that required students to be vaccinated, a desire to hang out with high school classmates, or a job requiring unvaccinated staff to wear masks. Their responses suggest that mandates or increased restrictions on the unvaccinated, increasingly debated by employers and government officials, could make a significant difference.
Audrey Sliker, 18, of Southington, Connecticut, said she was given a chance because the New York governor announced that all students attending the State University of New York schools were required to do so. She plans to be a newbie at SUNY Cobleskill this fall.
“I just don’t like needles in general,” she said, walking out of a white tent that housed a mobile vaccination center in Middlefield, Conn. “So it’s more like, ‘Do I have to get them?'”
Many of the respondents described their decisions in personal, somewhat complicated terms.
Willie Pullen, 71, was nibbling on a bag of popcorn as he left a vaccination center in Chicago, one of the few people to show up that day. He wasn’t exactly against the vaccines. Almost everyone in his life was already vaccinated, he said, and although he was at greater risk because of his age, he believed he was healthy and strong enough to think about it for a while.
What drove him to a high school on the West Side of Chicago where free vaccines were being given was the illness of an aging friend’s mother. Mr. Pullen wanted to visit her. He felt it was irresponsible to do this without vaccination.
“I persevered,” said Mr. Pullen. “I had reservations about the safety of the vaccine and the government that is doing it. I just wanted to wait and see. “
“I’m still not sure if it’s safe”
The campaign to vaccinate Americans across the board against the coronavirus began with a roaring, high-energy surge earlier this year as millions of people were vaccinated every day and coveted vaccination dates were celebrated with happy selfies on social media. Efforts peaked on April 13 when an average of 3.38 million doses were administered in the United States. The Biden government aims to have 70 percent of American adults at least partially vaccinated by July 4th.
July 23, 2021, 10:06 p.m. ET
But the vaccinations have been falling steadily since mid-April and have remained on a plateau in the last few weeks. Weeks after the July 4th benchmark passed, effort has now decreased, distributing an average of about 537,000 doses per day – a decrease of about 84 percent from the high.
About 68.7 percent of American adults have received at least one injection. Conservative commentators and politicians have questioned the safety of the three vaccines the Food and Drug Administration has approved for emergency use, and in some parts of the country opposition to vaccination is politically linked. An analysis of the New York Times vaccine and voter records in each county of the United States found that both willingness to receive a coronavirus vaccine and actual vaccination rates in counties where a majority of residents voted to re-elect has, on average, Donald J. Trump votes lower.
Despite the delayed vaccination efforts, there are indications that alarming headlines about a new surge in coronavirus cases and the highly contagious Delta variant could lead more Americans to consider vaccination. On Friday, White House press secretary Jen Psaki said there had been “encouraging data” showing that the five states with the highest case numbers – Arkansas, Florida, Louisiana, Missouri and Nevada – also had higher vaccination rates.
In Florida, a Sarasota County clinic was quiet, a brightly lit waiting area full of mostly empty chairs. Several people came in, often no more than an hour or two in an hour. Lately they are vaccinating fewer than 30 people a day there.
Elysia Emanuele, 42, paralegal, came for an injection. One factor in her decision was the rising number of cases in the state, which she watched with concern.
“If everything went smoothly, if we’d shut down and do what we had to do and it was seemingly wiped out,” she said, “I think I probably would have gotten the vaccine less.”
In the shadow of a freeway underpass in South Los Angeles, volunteers and potential vaccinees attempted to chat over the roar of passing cars.
Ronald Gilbert, 60, said he doesn’t really believe in vaccines and has never been a fan of needles, but with an increase in cases he argued that “it is better to be on the safe side”.
Understand the state of vaccine mandates in the United States
“I feel better now if I do this seriously,” he said. “I’m going to run like a rooster, chest up, like, ‘Do you have the vaccine? I got the vaccine. ‘”
News of the Delta variant also changed the mind of Josue Lopez, 33, who hadn’t planned on getting a vaccine after his entire family tested positive for the coronavirus in December.
“I thought I was immune, but with this variant, if it’s more dangerous, it might not be enough,” he said. “Even now, I’m not sure it’s safe.”
“We have to fight for each of them”
At a vaccination site at Malcolm X College in Chicago, Sabina Richter, one of the workers there, said it used to be easy to find people to get injected. More recently, they had to offer incentives: passes to an amusement park in the northern suburbs and Lollapalooza.
“Some people come in and still hesitate,” she said. “We have to fight for each of them.”
Cherie Lockhart, an employee at a Milwaukee care facility for the elderly and disabled, said she was concerned about the vaccines because she didn’t trust a medical system she believed had always treated blacks differently.
She was not a vaccine opponent, she said, but just hesitated until she could be reassured. Her mother finally won her over.
“My mom has never steered me wrong,” said Ms. Lockhart, 35. “She said, ‘I feel like this is right in my heart.’ So I prayed about it. And finally I went with my guide light. “
Many of the people who checked for vaccinations said they wanted to see how the vaccines affected the Americans who were rushing to get them early.
“I know people who got it and they didn’t get sick, that’s why,” said Lisa Thomas, 45, a home nurse from Portland, Ore. “I haven’t heard of any case that anyone has been injured.” of it, and there is a lot to benefit from. “
For Cindy Adams, who works for a Des Moines insurance company, the requirement of her job, as an unvaccinated person, was wearing a mask that forced her to go to the Polk County Health Department’s driving clinic for her first dose of Pfizer BioNTech vaccine.
Ms. Adams, 52, said she was concerned about possible long-term effects of the vaccines. But now her husband, children, and most of her extended family have been vaccinated, as have most of their staff.
“I’m just sick of wearing the mask,” said Ms. Adams. “We had an event yesterday and I had to wear it for five hours because I was with a lot of people. And I was sick of it.
“Everyone else is healthy and hasn’t had any serious side effects, so I decided to join the crowd.”
Julie Bosman reported from Chicago. The coverage included Matt Craig from Los Angeles, Elizabeth Djinis from Sarasota, Florida, Timmy Facciola from Middlefield, Connecticut, Ann Hinga Klein from Des Moines, Emily Shetler from Portland, Oregon, and Dan Simmons from Milwaukee.