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Polarization over Covid vaccine prompts some Americans to get shot in secret

·2-min read
<span>Photograph: Joseph Prezioso/AFP/Getty Images</span>
Photograph: Joseph Prezioso/AFP/Getty Images

The increasing polarization and disinformation around the Covid-19 vaccine has led to some people attempting to “disguise their appearance” and get vaccinated in secret, according to a Missouri doctor.

Dr Priscilla Frase, a hospitalist and chief medical information officer at Ozarks Healthcare in West Plains, said physicians had experienced a number of people who have asked to covertly receive the vaccine to avoid conflict with vaccine skeptical family, friends and co-workers.

In a video produced by Ozarks Healthcare, Frase said one pharmacist reported that several people: “Even went so far as to say: ‘Please, please, please don’t let anybody know that I got this vaccine.’”

Some 41% of people in Missouri are fully vaccinated. Nationwide 49.8% of Americans are fully vaccinated, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Last week the White House said Missouri, Florida and Texas account for 40% of new coronavirus cases in the US.

Vaccine hesitancy in the US has been fueled by social media disinformation and rightwing media personalities, who have repeatedly questioned the efficacy and even safety of the vaccine.

A report by the Center for Countering Digital Hate found in March that the vast majority of Covid-19 anti-vaccine misinformation and conspiracy theories originated from just 12 people, who have a combined following of 59 million people across multiple social media platforms. The dozen include Robert F Kennedy Jr, the nephew of John F Kennedy who has linked vaccines to autism and 5G broadband cellular networks to the coronavirus pandemic.

Frase told CNN that the hospital works to accommodate people who ask for secrecy while receiving the vaccine.

“Anything we can do to get people in a place that they’re comfortable receiving the vaccine,” she said.

“It’s not a large number, but every single person that we can reach who wants to get vaccinated and we can provide that for them, that’s a win. And we take every win that we can get.”

The desire for privacy comes from a fear about how people will respond, Frase said. People who have changed their minds and decided to get the vaccine may have “had some experience that’s sort of changed their mind from the viewpoint of those in their family, those in their friendship circles or their work circles”, she said.

“They did their own research on it, and they talked to people and made the decisions themselves,” Frase added.

“But even though they were able to make that decision themselves, they didn’t want to have to deal with the peer pressure or the outbursts from other people about them, quote: ‘Giving in to everything.’”

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