After a few months of what seemed like the light at the end of the proverbial tunnel, the ultra-contagious Delta variant came around to make us realize that the threat of Covid-19 has most certainly not gone away. As U.S. deaths rise steadily again, the topic of vaccines has directly accelerated, too. In mid-July, the director of the Centers for Disease Control called the current state in the U.S. "a pandemic of the unvaccinated," and social media feeds once again became coated with pleas that those who have not had their shots to just go get vaccinated already.
Spending a few minutes on Facebook might suggest that vaccine beliefs are as polarized as ever, a divide impenetrable. But thankfully, many people who were once steadfast in their resistance against the vaccine have since been inoculated: New CDC data now shows that the US vaccination rate has hit its highest pace in weeks. According to ABC News analysis of CDC data from the last three weeks, every state has reported an increase in its average number of first doses administered, with the national rate of Americans receiving their first dose up by more than 73%. Even the least vaccinated southern states like Missouri have experienced a staggering, newfound demand for the vaccine with a daily average of new vaccinations 87% higher than three weeks ago.
Here, why 12 people who were at one point vaccine-hesitant changed their minds and got the Covid-19 vaccine.
Formerly Anti-Vax, but QAnon Changed Things
Alexis: 39, British Columbia (Canada)
Alexis is a self-proclaimed "former hardcore anti-vaxxer," who uses her Instagram, @alexisandthevax, to share her experience and educate people about the dangers of new-age groups exhibiting cult-like behavior. She says that in recent years, the groups she had participated in throughout her life began to spread QAnon conspiracy theories, which served as a wake-up call that culminated during the Covid-19 pandemic.
"[The covid vaccine] is the first vaccine I ever got. When all the QAnon stuff started coming up, it was just so confronting. The COVID vaccine is the one that I'm most passionate about right now because I see that the whole scientific community is working so hard at eradicating a disease, and then I see all these people that used to be my friends and my community just working against that," Alexist tells InStyle. She continued, "I really really worry about the consequences of the community that I used to be a part of [and] how that's affecting global health."
Michael: 54, New York
Michael was formerly part of the anti-vax community that espouses misinformation about vaccines that have been debunked by scientists. However, that changed this time around when he saw the "targeted gaslighting" being used by the current COVID anti-vaxxers and just how political the situation had become.
Michael says the "complete nonsense, lies, bogus" memes of the anti-vaxxers went beyond arguments he had previously agreed with, shifting to a different agenda. "I am fully certain that much of the current anti-vax movement around the COVID vaccine is the direct result of the massive disinformation campaign that is tied to Q-anon, Trump, the alt-right, possibly foreign governments, etc.," he says. In February, Rolling Stone reported that anti-vaxxers merged with QAnon due to a mistrust in "all institutions," including the medical (and vaccine) industries.
For Michael, his vaccine was more than just a promotion of public health. "My motivation to get the covid vaccine was to join in to help stop the spread and to combat the disinformation," he says.
Motivated to Protect Family Members
Melanie: 27 South Carolina
"I was hesitant to get the vaccine at first because of how quickly it was created," Melanie says. She says she changed her mind in hopes of helping her three-year-old get back to socializing. "She has been very lonely throughout the pandemic," she adds.
The news of Delta's higher contagiousness also factored into Melanie's decision to get the vaccine. "I feel like the vaccine will ease a lot of my anxieties about keeping my kids [and] family safe and I do think the benefits greatly outweigh the risks," she says.
Manny: 31, Oregon
Manny had concerns about the Covid-19 vaccine due to the record-breaking speed with which scientists developed it, as well as the fears he has as a Black person due to the Tuskegee experiments and "African American pain and concerns not being taken seriously at clinics and hospitals." He adds, "I can't ignore that sometimes the Black community is not truly taken care of or forgotten in public policy."
However, Manny ultimately decided that theseriousness of the pandemic — and the risks that come with being unvaccinated — made getting the vaccine a "no-brainer." He adds, "I was in constant contact with older relatives and I couldn't live with myself if I got any of them sick."
Brandon: 33, Georgia
"I was hesitant to get the vaccine because I have peanut and egg allergies. Eggs, oftentimes, are used in the creation of traditional vaccines so I've stayed away from things, like the yearly flu shot," Brandon tells InStyle. (FYI, people with egg allergies can still receive flu vaccines as long as they follow CDC recommendations — and there are also egg-free options.) Researching the mRNA vaccines helped Brandon to ultimately decide to get vaccinated, along with a few other factors, he says.
"Seeing our public officials and frontline medical workers getting the shot made my decision even easier. All those factors, along with my parents' comorbidities, were key in my decision," he says.
Julie: 49, Oregon
"I was hesitant about this [vaccine] because of all the media and rumors and discussions I heard. It's hard to know what is real and what isn't," Julie says, also attributing hesitation to "the fact it was so new."
But then Julie's husband, who's 62, got sick and the couple realized how much of a threat COVID could be. "When the test results came back negative, we both cried tears of relief. It was that moment we decided we both were going to get the vaccine," Julie says.
Antony: 41, Nevada
Antony has multiple autoimmune diseases, and while he felt that COVID would "almost definitely be a death sentence," he wasn't sure if he would be able to get the vaccine due to potential complications.
Since he lives with his mom and sister now, they decided to get the vaccine. "I didn't want to put them at further risk," Antony tells InStyle. While he did suffer from side effects from the doses of vaccine that he calls "horrific," Antony says it was the lesser of two evils and knowing he was "part of the solution" made it all worth it. "I don't regret my choice at all," they add.
Convinced by Someone They Trust
Jaquan: 32, NY
Jaquan had resisted getting the vaccine due to his personal mistrust of the vaccine due to its lack of F.D.A. approval, as well as his community's response. He tells InStyle, "A lot of people I know, especially in the Black people community [sic] were like, not with it, like 'hey we don't really trust the government and we don't really know what's in that thing.'"
In the building where he works as a fire safety director and security guard, Jaquan often talked about the vaccine with a tenant named Leslie. "She was always nudging me to get it," he says. When he told Leslie that he's going to Florida soon, she said, "Hey wouldn't it be good to get it? Cause you know how Florida is, it's way more relaxed.'" After doing his own research, he decided to get the vaccine. "I said you know what, let me give it a shot — Leslie's talking about it, let's help thy neighbor, as she would say," He says, laughing. Then Jaquan adds, "So I went ahead and got the vaccine."
Omarr: 36, New York
Omarr is a registered nurse who tells InStyle that he spoke to his friends and family who had concerns and fears about the vaccine — and ultimately got them to change their minds. "As a Black person that works in the healthcare system, I think sometimes my buy-in to the science of the vaccine isn't viewed as me being a sincere and informed Black healthcare worker, but as a Black healthcare worker that works within a system that has done harm to Black people. Both things are true. But fortunately, I think for many that I spoke to, their trust in me and my sincerity helped inform their decision to get vaccinated," Omarr says.
Omarr says his friends and family felt reassured by seeing that he was fine after getting the COVID vaccine. He also says that explaining the science that he had researched about the vaccine seemed to help. "I think our conversations put them at ease," Omarr says.
Made Exception to Longstanding Vaccine-Resistance
Deborah: 73, Oregon
Deborah has avoided vaccines, except for the tetanus vaccine, for many years. She says, "I'm 73 so when I was 'fully vaccinated' that kind of meant smallpox and polio [and] tetanus." Since then, she says "every vaccine that I've been presented with, I'm always weighing the benefits to me and other people versus the risk."
While she chooses to opt out of vaccines like the flu shot, the Covid-19 vaccine was different due to the high viral load of Covid-19 and the risk of people with asymptomatic cases spreading the disease, she says.
"This is the first vaccine where even if I stayed healthy with COVID and had an asymptomatic case, I could make a vulnerable person deathly ill," she says.
Laura*: 66, California
Laura tells InStyle that her hesitance toward receiving vaccines in general comes from a mistrust in the CDC and the pharmaceutical industry. Since she works at a hospital, she felt protected enough from contracting Covid-19 due to access to Personal Protective Equipment. She adds, "My life was so limited because I was going to work and coming home."
However, she says her family convinced her to get vaccinated. "I felt like they were so fearful for me because I was in a high-risk group and I didn't want them to worry."
Now after seeing that the pandemic has persisted for so long, she's trying to convince others to change their minds. "I'm actually now pushing the vaccine, because if we have these pockets of unvaccinated groups, we're going to keep having the variants popping up and it's going to go on and on and on."
Wanted to "Wait and See"
Sophie: 36, South East (United Kingdom)
Sophie describes waiting to see the side effects of the vaccine as her deciding factor. "While I understand the amazing achievement at the speed it was developed, this is part of what concerned me, given [that] most vaccines/drugs are trialled and tested longer," she says. She also noted to InStyle that AstraZeneca's blood clot risk factored into what she calls a "wait and see" approach.
After witnessing enough people get their COVID vaccines without side effects, she felt comfortable and decided to go through with getting her own.
*Name was changed