Mixed reaction to pending COVID-19 vaccine

WESTFIELD/SOUTHWICK – Local reaction to the potential COVID-19 vaccine rollout announced by Gov. Charlie Baker this week was mixed, with many residents hesitant to get immunized.

Baker said Tuesday that vaccines could start arriving in Massachusetts this month, with frontline and essential workers among the first to get immunized. The general public would not likely have access to the vaccine for several months and Baker said at this point, he has no plan to mandate the vaccine.

The Westfield News asked members of online forums if they planned to get the vaccine. There were strong opinions on both sides of the vaccination question.

“I will get [it] as soon as it’s available,” said a responder named Tammy Ann.

Caitlin Fillion said a vaccine cannot come fast enough.

“I’m hoping to get the vaccine as soon as I can,” Fillion said. “I’ve been stressed all year about my sister and dad getting it as they are at high risk. I also miss my family and friends. I’ve heard there’s side effects, but they sound similar to the side effects some get after receiving the flu shot. Either way… I cannot wait for a vaccine!”

One resident wrote “I will get it as soon as FDA approves it and it is available.”

“I also will be first in line — I hate living in fear and missing so much,” said Kim Starsiak.

Stephen Kulewicz said “I am 68. I most certainly will be getting the vaccine as soon as it is available. I certainly do miss hugging my children and grandchildren.”

Several other responders said they would definitely get vaccinated, while others were vehemently against the vaccine right now. Craig Reed said his own household has opposing views on the vaccine.

“I am a 53-year-old man, with no underlying conditions, and I am an athlete. My wife is 100% opposed to the vaccine, she fears the side effects but she also fears that there is some intentional plan to take advantage of us off and plant some sort of tracker,” he said. “I don’t buy any of that, and I do plan to get the vaccine when it becomes available to me. I am not a healthcare worker, so I will not be among the first wave, and I’m not elderly so I will not be in the second wave. My hope is that by the time it reaches me, side effects will be better understood, as that is my only real concern. I have a daughter who is 21-years-old who is living in Europe, and she of course will have to make her own decision when the vaccine becomes available in Europe. I have a 17-year-old son and I know my wife will be out in he opposed to him receiving it. We haven’t yet discussed his thoughts with him.”

A few commenters simoply said no.

“Nope,” stated Morgan Meier without further explanation.

A few residents said the vaccine has not been tested enough.

“I’d want a vaccine if I know ahead of time the risk factors, what the percentage of it working is and how safe it is for children,” responded Jenn Duval. “I feel like it was rushed and I could not go into it without certain information especially for my child who has severe asthma and constantly has chronic croup and breathing issues with breathing treatments. He is very high risk so something would be good for him to get if I could count on it to be safe.”

Connie Gore-Dagesse said she did not plan on getting immunized, at least not any time soon.

“No, I will not be in line and I am a healthcare worker… not enough research on long term effects or how long it lasts … ask me again in a year,” she said.

Another resident who worked in the industry also said she would not get vaccinated just yet.

“No . . . not right way at least,” said Melissa Gustafson. “After working in pharmacy for 10+years — you can’t rush these things. They take time. Someday, but no thank you.”

“Absolutely NOT,” wrote Kelly Emmershy.

Matthew Brown said he planned to get vaccinated and asked “to those that say no, will you also refuse treatment in a hospital when you get infected?”

Tammy Bishop also feels it’s too soon.

“I personally will not get it in the start as I feel it was too rushed and we don’t have accurate information,” Bishop stated. “What will happen in 3 months, 6 months and so on? I am taking precautions every day and have been for months. I hope to continue to stay healthy but have no intention of getting a vaccine anytime soon.”

“I will wear the mask as long as it is needed but will not do the vaccine due to lack of longer research,” said Anna Antropova.

Ian Creswell is also hesitant, but willing to be immunized.

“Will I get one? Likely. Will I do so immediately? Probably not,” said Creswell. “I am not a high risk individual. As such, I would rather see those at higher risk get it first. In addition, one of my now adult children deals with a medical issue that started about six months after her last HPV vaccine. Did it cause that? Not exactly. The genes were there for that. Though it likely triggered them to activate. This she learned in a DNA class when she was pershing her degree that has a focus in biology. It may have kicked in at the same time (17), it may have kicked in later in life and it may never have kicked in. This makes me a little nervous. Make no mistake, I am not an anti vaxxer. Just a little cautious.”

One city woman said despite being high-risk for COVID, the vaccine is too risky.

“I’m  immune compromised, due to having smothering myeloma and I am out of work this year as I am prone to getting infections,” said Stephanie Riberiro. “I receive infusions for the first time this year, and this vaccine scares me as I hear it give you side effects of covid. I am not sure I would make it out alive if I ever got Covid, and now to give people a vaccine that gives them side effects really scares me — how do I know I can fight those side effects with my immune system? May sound stupid but it scares me, and we will wait for the kids. I get it’s a scary world right now but to rush into a vaccine isn’t the right step either.”

One resident commented on the potential of making the vaccine mandatory.

“I will not get the vaccine,” said Brenda Mastello, “and they best not make it mandatory. We shouldn’t be made to get this vaccine nor should children be forced to get the flu shot.”

According to State House News Service, more than a third of Massachusetts adults would be unlikely to get the vaccine for COVID-19, according to new poll results, with adults who feel that way citing a lack of trust in the approval process and concerns about side effects.

The Western New England University Polling Institute surveyed 415 adults and found that 90 percent said they support their city or town requiring people to wear masks in public places; 64 percent said they are very or somewhat worried about contracting COVID-19; and 66 percent said they know someone who has been diagnosed with COVID-19, with 29 percent saying they know someone who has died from COVID-19.

“Despite the suffering and deprivation that people may have encountered either firsthand or through the experiences of others during the pandemic, a sizable percentage of the public right now is not convinced about the value of getting a vaccine,” said institute director Tim Vercellotti. “Of course, these numbers may fluctuate as the public receives more information and as distribution of vaccines gets underway.”

The poll, which found nearly 60 percent of adults said they were likely to get the vaccine, was conducted by phone over a one-month period ending Nov. 24. It has a margin of error of plus or minus five percentage points.

(Michael P. Norton of State House News Service contributed.)


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