The other night I talked to a friend who works as a contact tracer for the New Mexico Department of Health. She said she has heard hundreds of reasons why people haven’t gotten vaccinated for the coronavirus.
Contact tracers use protocols to notify, interview and advise close contacts to patients with confirmed or probable cases.
Larry Rodriquez is one of the reluctant ones who hasn’t been vaccinated.
Although his daughter, who has a developmental disability, recently survived COVID-19 after three weeks in the hospital, Rodriquez said no one in his family is willing to be vaccinated.
Rodriquez, 63, said his concern is the vaccine wasn’t tested long enough before it was approved.
He is retired and lives with his wife in Albuquerque. They have three grown children.
He had spinal cord injury as a result of a single-car accident 28 years ago. At the time of his injury, Rodriquez was working for Los Alamos National Laboratory as an electronic technician, doing state-of-the-art electronic work maintaining linear accelerators.
It isn’t known how many people who are not vaccinated are still following the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s voluntary compliance guidance to wear masks both indoors and outdoors.
According to the agency, COVID-19 cases and deaths in the United States have dropped to their lowest levels in nearly a year as the number of people fully vaccinated in the U.S. reaches nearly 133 million.
Vaccines help your body build up the ability to fight off a virus. A vaccine may not prevent you from getting the coronavirus, but if you do get it, the vaccine may keep you from becoming seriously ill. Or it may keep you from developing complications due to the illness.
And that may be a lifesaving benefit of the vaccine.
But the adoption of a new technology — like the rapid deployment of a vaccine to prevent the spread of the coronavirus — will require people to make their medical decisions based on individual risk-benefit calculations.
These decisions do not happen simultaneously.
It takes time for people to adapt to a new innovation, according to the Diffusion of Innovation Theory, developed by Everett Rogers in 1962.
According to Rogers’ research, when promoting an innovation to a target population, it is important to understand the characteristics of the target population that will help or hinder adoption of the innovation.
I worked with Rogers in the early 1990s on a national public awareness project for the U.S. Department of Education that attempted to increase the use of technology by Native Americans with disabilities.
The project employed Native Americans with disabilities as peer outreach workers who were from the New Mexico pueblos where they would work.
It also used paid public service announcements on public radio’s National Native News and on the Alaska Native Corp.’s television stations.
Kathy Newroe, who would later write a disability column for the Santa Fe New Mexican, assisted Rogers with the program evaluation.
He was with the Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences at Stanford University, but in 1993 moved to the University of New Mexico, where he served as chairman of the Department of Communication and Journalism.
His well-accepted diffusion of innovations theory explained how new ideas and technology are often perceived as uncertain and even risky by most people.
At the end of our project, Rogers concluded Native Americans with disabilities didn’t necessarily trust the government to pay for assistive technology, as we had advertised.
A 2016 Pew Research survey found Americans reporting a disability have lower rates of technology adoption than the general population.
According to Rogers’ theory, individuals who have been skeptical about getting vaccinated will gradually come around to accepting it, but only after most people have tried it successfully.