While many people in New Zealand have seized the opportunity to get vaccinated against Covid-19, it is not the case for everyone – some people long for family members who are hesitant to get vaccinated.
Several people spoke anonymously with RNZ about the pain and dysfunction their families are experiencing.
For most, their family members are hesitant to get vaccinated, rather than staunchly against vaccines, but conversations about it often end in arguments.
Mary * said her grandmother was hesitant and that had made things uncomfortable.
“She says she’s older and that these things don’t matter to her anymore,” Mary said.
“But my mother, [who is a] Nurse, insist that you get vaccinated for the real benefit of the family and for the benefit of everyone else. “
She said her grandmother would call her claiming that her mother was “intimidating her, from her point of view,” while she, too, was trying to convince her to get vaccinated.
“It’s not very nice.”
Mary was concerned about what would happen to her grandmother, who had underlying health problems, if she became infected with Covid-19.
“It would be very sad if he succeeded and something bad happened to him.”
Ruby *, who is pregnant, had a similar situation with her grandparents.
He said their hesitation was because they thought the vaccine had not been properly tested.
Evidence showed that the Pfizer brand vaccine being administered in Aotearoa New Zealand was 95 percent effective after both doses.
It was also held to the same standards and requirements as all vaccines before obtaining full approval from Medsafe.
Ruby said her grandmother was asked to get vaccinated when another family member recently gave birth, but she refused.
“So when I reached for her, she said, ‘oh, but you’ll let me see your baby, won’t you?’ and I was like ‘well no,’ “Ruby said.
Things were now at a point where his family would try to “laugh at everything to process in some way because it seems so absurd.”
Anne * was concerned that her “young and well-educated” sister was turning into an anti-vaccine.
His sister “wasn’t really the type of person you imagine becoming anti-vax”, but now she said some “wacky” things.
Sometimes Anne “got very angry” with her sister “because she seems so unreasonable and selfish” and was “afraid to think about what might happen to her.”
“We have other family members who would literally die if caught [Covid-19]. “
Tom * said his brother openly doubted vaccinations and, like Anne’s sister, began to question things at a time when he was isolated from others and spent a lot of time online.
Both are concerned about how easily their siblings were convinced by misinformation.
Tom said his family originally took things with a grain of salt, but that had changed.
“We ignore it instead of engaging in a conversation,” he said.
“It has become too frustrating.”
Tom said that he and his brother “have always had a very open and honest dialogue.”
“This is something I’ve given up trying to talk to him about.”
Clinical immunologist Dr. Maia Brewerton said that being averse to vaccines was not the same as being an anti-vaccine, which she labeled a very small group that would probably not change their stance.
But she believed that most people’s perspectives could be changed.
Brewerton, who is part of the government’s Covid-19 Strategic Public Health Advisory Group, said he saw three common reasons why people were hesitant: fear of injections and needles, unanswered questions, or lack of trust in the healthcare system. .
Brewerton said that if people doubted, it was better to share their own experience rather than bombard them with facts.
He said it was important for them to feel that their concerns were being heard, rather than for everyone to get defensive and fight to be right.
“I don’t want anyone who feels insecure about the vaccine to feel attacked,” Brewerton said.
Hesitant people had often heard something terrifying and came from a place of fear and protection, he said.
That meant it was important that they had the opportunity to ask questions and be answered with good information.
Brewerton was “really open” with her patients about the fact that there were “small risks” with the vaccine, “although it is very safe.”
“But also in discussions, it is useful to say that we also have to recognize these risks of this virus, which is not going away either.”
Brewerton said it was important to note that no one was being forced to get vaccinated.
He also wanted people to remember that it was good for everyone that as many people as possible were vaccinated.
* Names have been changed to protect the identities of those who speak about their families.