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Jenna Harrington of Santa Fe poses Thursday near the Santa Fe Public Library on Washington Avenue. Harrington, like some other New Mexicans, is skeptical of taking the COVID-19 vaccine. The government should encourage people to be healthier so their bodies are less prone to illness, rather than telling them to take a vaccine or a pill as a quick fix, she said. 

Some have serious illnesses or allergies and fear bad reactions to the coronavirus vaccine.

Others are wary about how rapidly the shots were developed.

A few have qualms based on myths, half-truths and conspiracy theories: The vaccine could alter a person’s DNA, they claim, or contains nanochips to track recipients.

Since the start of the pandemic, experts have said a vaccine is the best hope for vanquishing the coronavirus, which continues to surge across the nation and the world, sickening and killing a growing number of patients, battering the economy and disrupting people’s daily lives.

Now that it’s here, with thousands of doses already administered in New Mexico, roughly half of Americans say they don’t plan to get inoculated.

Why?

The question has launched spirited discussions throughout the country, including Santa Fe, where talk about the vaccine — pro and con — is a daily topic on social media.

People give wide-ranging reasons for being hesitant or opposed to getting vaccinated. They center on personal history, concerns about timing and testing, skepticism about everything from science to politics.

Sunny Thornton, 67, a Cochiti Lake resident, said she suffered from severe reactions to flu and shingles vaccines, and she was treated for cancer this year, giving her mixed feelings about “the latest and greatest.”

“I would like to see more information and documentation of side effects,” she said.

Europe, especially Great Britain, is experiencing a new strain of the virus that seems to be worse, she said — making her wonder whether this vaccine will protect against that.

Mary Dolman, a clinical laboratory scientist at Christus St. Vincent Regional Medical Center, said people with serious health conditions, including allergies, have valid concerns. They should consult with their doctors before getting vaccinated, she said.

Still, something people should consider is whether their impairments — such as a weakened immune system — puts them more at risk if they contract COVID-19 than if they get the vaccine, Dolman said.

“They and their physicians have to decide which one is riskier,” she said.

Sabrina Williams, 37, of Rio Rancho said as a cancer survivor, the vaccine is not an option for now.

“My oncologist says no COVID-19 vaccine until they have more data about the effects on cancer-chemo patients and survivors,” Williams said.

A computer database has been created so public health officials and manufacturers like Pfizer and Moderna can keep a record of people who have been vaccinated and have adverse reactions, she said.

Dolman is more concerned about people swayed by misinformation about the virus and vaccine. Much of it swirls on the internet.

“It takes a lot of right information,” she said, “to correct wrong information.”

A new technology used in the vaccines raised concerns among some people who commented on the Facebook thread. A few feared it would change their DNA.

“I’m not an anti-vaxxer type, and I refuse to politicize a health issue,” said Rich Coats, 46, of Santa Fe. “But I won’t be taking it in its first few years. This abbreviated trial period is the shortest ever for a vaccine, much less one that modifies our DNA.”

However, the vaccine does not alter DNA. It uses a spike protein in the virus as messenger RNA — ribonucleic acid — to instruct the body to trigger antibodies as if the full virus were present, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says on its website.

Others expressed concerns about not knowing what’s in the vaccine.

“Look at all the garbage ... that the government has put in commodity foods and fed our Native peoples,” said Jolene Eustace, 62, of Albuquerque. “Where is the info of what’s in the COVID vaccine?”

According to a New York Times article, there are no microchips and no mystery ingredients in the vaccines, which contains four lipids, four salts and sucrose.



Some commenters said they would eschew the vaccine to resist government control.

David Blum of Santa Fe said he refuses to live in fear and allow authority figures to think for him when it comes to his health. He said he’s certain his immune system will hold up fine against “this little cold virus.”

“We can achieve herd immunity by giving the vaccine to those at high risk for being adversely affected by the virus,” Blum said, “and allowing those who choose not to be vaccinated to take off our masks and build our immunity naturally, from exposure.”

However, the CDC and public health experts like state Human Services Secretary Dr. David Scrase repeatedly have said masks’ main function is to prevent asymptomatic carriers from spreading the virus.

Dolman said no one has truly calculated the percentage of the population that would have to be vaccinated and become infected to achieve herd immunity. Even a conservative estimate such as half the population adds up to staggering numbers, she said.

But the more people who are vaccinated, the better, Dolman said.

Blum is among those who believe a more holistic approach, such as a healthy diet, exercise, supplements and alternative medicines, help bolster people’s immunity to viruses.

Eustace said she turns to traditional Native medicines and ceremonies and eats organic food to keep well.

“I, myself, remember that my late dad said, ‘I do not need immunizations because my Native, Indigenous physical self is enough to defend against many diseases,’ ” Eustace said, adding that it would include this virus.

Jenna Harrington, 39, of Santa Fe describes herself as a wellness advocate with doubts about the vaccine. The government should encourage people to be healthier so their bodies are less prone to illness, rather than telling them to take a vaccine or a pill as a quick fix, she said.

“I know COVID is real and it is a very serious virus, and it does affect everybody differently,” Harrington said. “But at the same time there is so much conflicting information. The government has never really been in favor of wanting people to be healthy. It’s all about money and big pharma.”

Harrington thinks she and her family contracted the virus months ago and suffered only mild symptoms. That makes her feel less urgency to be vaccinated, she said.

Harrington was among the many people who expressed a common concern about the vaccine being developed in months, when past vaccines took years.

She said she’s not a staunch anti-vaxxer and has her two children get routine vaccines except flu shots. Certain vaccines have warded off diseases like measles and polio, she said, but those involved much more research and testing.

“My concern with this vaccine is just how quickly it was produced,” Harrington said.

A number of people said they plan to wait to see what happens to the first recipients of the vaccine before deciding.

“I will let others be the test subjects,” said Jerry Vasilik, 64, of Santa Fe. “The nonpolitical and nonpolitically driven medical information available is not as confident and concise as the political propaganda makes it out to be.”

But Dolman said research has been conducted since the early 2000s into the type of virus that caused SARS back then and is now causing COVID-19. The vaccine was designed so quickly because of the many years of research, she said.

“They didn’t have to invent the wheel this year,” Dolman said. “That wheel was invented decades ago.”

Shen Robinson, 73, who lives in Santa Fe, said she was one of the first children to get Jonas Salk’s polio vaccine in the early 1950s.

The trial vaccine put her in the hospital with a severe fever, and for decades she suffered symptoms similar to post-polio syndrome, she said.

The residual symptoms eventually faded, leaving her cautious, but not anti-vaccine.

The Food and Drug Administration didn’t have three-level testing at the time, Robinson said.

“Although I was affected detrimentally, the Salk vaccine saved children’s lives,” Robinson said. “I am looking forward to getting my COVID-19 vaccination.”

(54) comments

Gus Walbolt

I'm looking forward to getting my vaccine shot as soon as possible.

mark Coble

Well proven vaccine with no side effects. Vaccines never cause harm. There, the party line.

Jim Klukkert

mark Coble– To what party do you refer? Certainly one would refer to scientists or the medical community regarding questions regarding vaccines, immunology or public health.

Amongst the professionals of the scientific and medical authorities, the conventional wisdom is: 'there are clear data driven answers to many questions, but always keep an eye out for the exception to the rule.'

Surely you know of this. So, to what party do you refer, and what is your point?

Jan Ryan

I'll happily take any of their place in line.

Matt Ponteri

Amazing how many conspiracy theories have evolved alongside covid vaccine. Changes your DNA, not enough research, it was developed to fast, it'll make me go insane, it'll turn me into an alien being, it'll kill me, and my favorite, it'll let me find Elvis, and where he's living today. No one can be forced to take it, but this is Jim Jones passing out Kool Ade, but reputable, world renown scientists (including Fauci and Hazeltine) declaring it's safe to take. If Fauci says it's ok, then it's ok. If trump says it's ok, run.

B H

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Tel Cif

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B H

[beam] I hate Trump, but I will get the COVID-19 vaccine the first chance I get. Trump is the President for a little while longer, but the vaccine was developed by scientists throughout the US and Europe and from what I see they are doing an excellent job of developing this vaccine. I will take the vaccine at the earliest moment it is available to me.

B H

[thumbup] Me too!

Mike Johnson

I do believe people need to follow their principles here. All those who hated Trump and everything he has done, need to understand this is HIS vaccine........choose accordingly.

Emily Koyama

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Richard Irell

Gosh, and here I thought it was the scientists at Pfizer, Biotech, Moderna, etc that developed those vaccines.

Emily Koyama

Operation Warpspeed, for which Trump should, and will, recieve much credit, set the stage for a much shorter development period, and reduced red tape and regulations, in order for the vaccine to be available in 10 months. Of course you , and the left wing media won't give him any credit for that...what's new?

B H

Trump doesn't get much credit for failing to block the rapid development of this vaccine. On the other had, he loses credit for trying to get support of the public for a malaria drug which he claimed would cure COVID 19 and for taking an antibody treatment that was helpful but that few Americans could get for love nor money. Trust Trump to look out for Trump. Don't count on him to look out for anyone else.

Jim Klukkert

Seems like you may have swilled the Kool Aid this time, Emily Koyama. Two million vaccinated in 4 weeks mat only be Warpspeed in Trump's imagination, hardly the rate needed to vaccinate 80% of population [to achieve 'here immunity'] by June of next year.

So we will credit Trump for overselling you on Warpspeed, so you would echo those claims? Okay, you're Trump's patsy, if you insist. Big points to the Donald!

B H

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Richard Irell

From https://apple.news/AwtqBWXOPRyuJsO6HNB2YeA

The quest started in early January, before most people in the U.S. and Europe were even thinking about a pandemic. The biotechnology company Moderna Inc. had downloaded the genetic code for the novel coronavirus from researchers in China. Within a few days, scientists there had developed a vaccine with the U.S. National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, the research agency led by Anthony Fauci. By mid-March, they’d started a clinical trial.

Pfizer Inc. announced its own plans around the same time. A year and a half before, it had signed a deal with a German biotech company, BioNTech SE, that has similar messenger RNA technology to Moderna’s that could, in theory, rapidly assemble and test new vaccines. Like Moderna, the companies thought the technology could make it possible to quickly turn around a prototype vaccine. “The world hasn’t seen an emergency like this in 100 years,” says Steven Joffe, the interim chairman of the department of medical ethics and health policy at the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania. “We are lucky in the sense that the science was there.”

Mike Johnson

And who was President in charge of funding and pushing these experimental things? TRUMP! Do you forget he also like hydryoxychloroquine and drinking bleach too? He is responsible, consider that before you take the shots......it is his.

B H

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B H

[cool][thumbup] Here's to the scientists for the research that made a vaccine possible and to the pharmaceutical companies which were on t0 racing the scientific discoveries into vaccines and trials and production. Here's to Fauci for telling the truth whenever Trump told people lies and here's to all of us who listened to Fauci instead of Trump. Those of you who believe Trump was correct should skip the vaccine. That will help people who want it to get vaccinated sooner. I wonder if anyone will do a study to find out the political party of those who choose not to take the vaccine belong to as compared to those who chose to take the vaccine. Betting people will undoubtedly want to put money on one of those leaders.

B H

[huh]?

Angel Ortiz

Super happy that Mr. Blum is not my next door neighbor. “this little cold virus" Really??

David Cartwright

I agree with most of the comments that suggest perhaps the article seems a little to promotional of crank theories and conspiracies. Have we seen an article yet from the New Mexican giving us the actual science and benefits of the vaccine, that debunks the falsehoods and supports the vaccine efforts with some medical truth? No we have not. Instead, we get the rumor stuff--two people got an allergic reaction in Alaska (out of thousands that took the vaccine) and some patients with other illnesses that cite the doctors [ all hearsay, because the doctor is never actually the one that is interviewed].

Amy Earle

I get that the author is attempting to collect various perspectives but a good number of the views expressed show a high level of ignorance and willingness to accept misinformation as fact. The problem is these people are a sampling of people countrywide with these views. We need at a minimum 70-80% of the population to be vaccinated and it’s going to require a large scale public relations campaign. The anti vaccine movement is very strong on places like Facebook and they have to be countered as well. Judging by the comments in this article we have a big task ahead of us. As for the guy spouting off about herd immunity he has no idea what he’s talking about. Some serious education on the topic is sorely needed by him.

B H

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Lee DiFiore

I feel bad for those that can't take the vaccine for health reasons. For all the others, thank you for helping the rest of us move further up to the front of the line.

Bonnie Cox

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B H

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B H

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Rhabdo Myolys

The purpose of the story was to introduce readers to the perspective of others, a common goal of journalism. But most commenters have responded with anger and disgust basically saying "you don't think like me so you're horrible and wrong." And this is really our problem - we no longer seek to understand or tolerate one another, we simply judge. Kind of ironic in a town dominated by members of the "party of tolerance." I respect and applaud each of the individuals in this article who spoke their minds, certainly knowing the usual response of Santa Feans would be just as we see here.

Molly Mix

Here here!

Al Chavez

Where, where? :)

mark Coble

Freedom of speech unless it hurts my feelings! Example? You can not change your sex....it is set at birth. THAT sends some folks over the edge.

Jim Klukkert

So they can join you in the Never Ever Land that you inhabit mark Coble?

[lol]

Paul Davis

The problem is that we're talking about a medical technology which relies on widespread community adoption in order to be effective. This isn't about somebody have a difference of opinion about their favorite TV show, whether there should or should not be tax cuts for the wealthy, or the red/green option here in NM.

We've seen what happened in CA when enough people chose to skip the measles vaccine. By refusing to vaccinate, people have can potentially severely reduce the impact of the vaccine on the entire community. If someone said "well, I get along just fine in my car with almost worn out brakes" would you demand that we respect their opinion, despite the potential it will create for someone else to be hurt?

Moses Townsend

I know it’s a bit more unnerving to take a vaccine created in such a short period of time, but I don’t think the reaction should be to just trust “wellness” remedies and new age quackery. Unfortunately, Santa Fe attracts a lot of people into that stuff as reflected in this article. Logic and reasoning are disregarded for weird holistic medicine “cures” they probably learned about on someone’s poorly written WordPress blog.

mark Coble

Our immune systems are quackery? I like my survival chances with out vaccine.

Jim Klukkert

mark Coble– Thanks for stepping out of the line of those waiting for the vaccine!

You will of course, not step into any line seeking medical care should you come down with the coronavirus.

B H

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Kathy Fish

Some pretty selfish and uniformed perspectives here. "David Blum of Santa Fe said he refuses to live in fear and allow authority figures to think for him when it comes to his health. He said he’s certain his immune system will hold up fine against “this little cold virus.” How nice for this man that he's got confidence in his immune system, but what about when he takes off his mask, gets infected, and infects others? The median age in Santa Fe is 65. It's not surprising to see Santa Feans with these perspectives, but it would be nice to see the SFNM working harder to refute bogus claims. Saying you're willing to get infected is basically saying you're also willing to see people less healthy than you are perish. Plus, there's no guarantee that ANYONE will fare well with the virus, regardless of age. Sheer ignorance abounds.

Molly Mix

David Blum’s comment about getting authorities out of his decision-making is the most true, bi-partisan statement here. Obviously people on both sides feel that sentiment for their own reasons, so I believe you are choosing the ignorant path in ignoring how these various people feel. It’s their perspective, not yours.

B H

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mark Coble

Hard to believe that some of us know the facts and science and refuse to live in fear and panic as dictated by the party line.

Paul Davis

You are right about the side effects of Mr. Blum's attitude. But you're wrong about the median age in Santa Fe. That was 43.3 years in 2018, and even though it is rising (it was 43 in 2017), it hasn't gone up that quickly.

Lupe Molina

I really hope the New Mexican is going to run another news story debunking all those who gave comment to this story. Presenting these folks' opinions (none of whom are doctors, nurses, epidemiologist, or even pharmacists) without fact checking them too seems irresponsible. Stop legitimizing fake experts and emboldening laypeople to make conclusions about something they have no education in.

Emily Koyama

Why is it always you lefties that call for censorship of stuff you don't like?

There's tons of factually questionable stuff on the Internet including posts made by people on both sides of the political spectrum, and on this newspaper's site.... It is not the newspaper's job to sort out fact from fiction in the comments section, or print only stories you approve of. Although I must say, since 99% of the stories the Santa Fe New Mexican prints lean politically the same way you do, you should be happy, and give it a rest.

Jim Klukkert

Emily Koyama- Again with the straw man logical fallacies, mis-truths, more distortions, just more evidence of the incoherence and extremism of your views, but no solutions from you.

From The Atlantic, the storied publication you call "a left wing rag," "People worn out by the dramas and lies of the past four years have a right to refuse to take Trump’s most enthusiastic supporters seriously. To reject further debate with people whose views are completely incoherent is not only understandable, but sensible."

FYI Emily: The Atlantic was founded in 1857, and in its early years published leading writers' commentary on the abolition of slavery, education, and other major political issues of that time. These writers, who you may not know well if at all, included Ralph Waldo Emerson, Oliver Wendell Holmes Sr., Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, Harriet Beecher Stowe, and John Greenleaf Whittier. After our short lived Civil War victory Whittier promoted writing by women.

More recently, The Atlantic was in 2016 named Magazine of the Year by the American Society of Magazine Editors.

Emily Koyama

'YAWN'. Being old doesn't make something special...not even you.

The NYT and WASHPO were once real sources of news too. Things change. And yes, they are all "Left wing rags" now.

Deal with it.

Thanks Klukkert!

mark Coble

SFNM does follow their masters.

B H

When one writes an article about people's opinions, one must write about people's opinions, whether you agree or not. As such this article is just fine. Now if the New Mexican prints articles on COVID 19, I expect that it will do its due diligence and let the public no what is correct and what is not. But there is no such thing as a wrong opinion.

Barry Rabkin

Except the vaccine does NOT ALTER YOUR DNA !!!!!!!

Molly Mix

Accept*

Dennis Mares

What's the harm in a little altered DNA when you're missing a chromosome?[lol]

Sonya Hastings

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