My vaccine hesitancy is none of your business

Covid vaccine
Image: Braňo

At my house, there is definitely a “household divide” when it comes to the COVID vaccine issue.

My husband was an early advocate and enthusiast, whereas I have been a skeptic from the start. Not long ago, though, when the vaccine became readily available to all adults, fewer of my friends (and some family) could understand why I was choosing to opt out. 

I found myself explaining my reasons for rejecting the experimental vaccine over and over. Explanations led to debates, and, sometimes, arguments with people I love and respect. I have grown tired of this fight, but I will defend each person’s right to do what they feel is best for their health care. Here’s why: 

The number one reason I’m wary of the jab is the uncertainty of long-term side effects. Articles circulated on the internet propagate the idea that the vaccine is too new, or ineffective, or even deadly. I’m not one to entertain conspiracy theories, but when people go around shouting, “Trust the science!” they need to remember that reluctance often stems from valid human experiences. Some 128 men died during the Tuskegee Experiment after the government lied to them. Is there any wonder why some in Black and marginalized communities might harbor mistrust? 

One of my other reasons, initially, for saying no, was that I didn’t want or need the vaccine for the same reason I didn’t want or need a flu shot.

One of my other reasons, initially, for saying no, was that I didn’t want or need the vaccine for the same reason I didn’t want or need a flu shot. I have never once had the flu, but surely I have been exposed to people who had it and I’ve just never gotten sick. Our bodies naturally build up immunities to these viruses. If COVID is just as – or more contagious than the flu, wouldn’t I have gotten it, too, by now?

Perhaps some people are averse to getting the vaccine for health reasons. We need to consider both physical and mental health. Maybe someone has a fear of needles? Irrational or not, trypanophobia is a real thing from which some 20 percent of the population suffer. For some, even the thought of being pricked can lead to dizziness, fainting, anxiety, insomnia and panic attacks.

What if you’re pregnant or breast-feeding? What if you are immobile and can’t get to a place that distributes vaccines? There are plenty of scenarios where someone would not want this, but instead of asking each other, “How was your weekend?” – we stick our noses into other peoples’ private lives and ask them if they’ve been vaccinated. What my friend, author and comedian, Bridget Phetasy, recently Tweeted had me in stitches:

“If anyone asks you if you got the vaccine just ask them if they have genital warts.” 

  • PW Editor Jenny DeHuff

    Jenny DeHuff has been a part of the Philadelphia media landscape for the last 15 years on just about every level of journalism. She started out at The Bulletin, a conservative voice for Philadelphia, then moved through the region as she honed her career as the City Hall reporter at the Daily News, and later as an editor at Philly Voice. As Philadelphia Weekly's editor-in-chief, DeHuff brings a viewpoint that constantly begs the question of a progressive-leaning Philadelphia. Say hello at

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