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What Would It Take to Convince You to Get Vaccinated?


As of today, slightly under 50 percent of South Dakotans have been fully vaccinated for COVID-19. To achieve safety from herd immunity, experts predict 75 percent need to be vaccinated. What will it take to convince those still not vaccinated to get the vaccine?

“The way things are going now, I’m not sure anything could convince me,” Bill Slovek says.

Bill Slovek is a third-generation Philip, South Dakota cattle rancher. And when it comes to herd health, Slovek is a believer in vaccines. But when it comes to his own health, he’s a bit hesitant to rely on them – especially when it comes to the COVID-19 vaccine.

 “You know when we get a new drug in the cattle industry, the company that is bringing it up and invented it or whatever you want to call it, they probably would take some five to 10 years to get FDA approval and it cost them tens if not hundreds of millions of dollars in some cases. And sometimes when they get to the end, they don’t get approved. And here we are, talking about a human vaccine, and we went from having the first case in January, I think almost no time at all, we had the vaccine. They did what they had to, but I question that no more time than they had, we don’t know what side effects might be in a year, or five or 10 after the shot. So, that’s my concerns on the vaccine. And the second thing is, having it, I feel like I have immunity, and nobody has convinced me yet, that the vaccine will give me better immunity than having natural immunity,” says Slovek.

Slovek’s concerns are not unique. In fact, since the vaccines became available Dr. David Basel (pronounced short a like bat) Vice President of Avera Medical Group Clinical Quality, has heard similar concerns from many South Dakotans. When patients ask whether they should get the vaccine since they have already had COVID-19, Dr. Basel explains vaccines are directed specifically against the critical part of the virus, the spike protein. And the vaccine creates a higher concentration of antibodies against this part of the virus than natural immunity does. 

And when patients express that not enough research went into the COVID-19 vaccines – this is his response.

“The way that happened with the COVID vaccines is the federal government said, we’re going to do a gamble, we’re going to put all kinds of money at the top  candidates, and hopefully some of them end up turning out to be safe and effective. And, the ones that do, will then already have them in production so that we can hit the ground running. And so that’s what they did. Even during Phase 2 studies, they were already ramping up their factories and equipment and supplies and everything and already starting production before they had approval, so that if the vaccines did work out, we’d be ready to go and that turned out to be a great gamble. …Those first two out of the gate, have been more safe and effective than any vaccine we were ever had, at least during my lifetime. So, it’s been a great gamble – and that took a good couple years out of the system by doing that. And so, the actual research side of it, the Phase 2 studies, the Phase 3 studies, they were exactly like any other vaccine that came out – in fact they are probably even larger than most vaccine studies that come out. So that is the number one thing I point out. Another thing I point out, especially at this point of time, especially talking about the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines are now the most studied vaccines we have ever had, the most intensely studied. We collected the most data on them,” Basel says.

 To help listeners understand the significance of Dr. Basel’s comment, “that the COVID vaccines are the most studied in his lifetime,” Dr. Basel is over 50 and has practiced medicine for more than two decades.

In addition to being the most studied during development, Dr. Basel says the post go-live data collection is also much greater. 

Like Bill Slovek, Morgan has not yet been vaccinated. This is probably where their similarities end. 

“I’m 22. I just graduated last December from USD with a Communications Studies and Media Journalism major. I’m currently living at home, and I am actually moving to Limerick, Ireland here in August, so I am living at home waiting for that to happen, doing some independent contracted caregiving,” Morgan says.

The reason she has yet to get the vaccine is health-related, so we are only using Morgan’s first name. 

“I am nervous about it. I have something called polycystic ovarian syndrome and I have a really high chance of not being able to have kids because of this. And I think my biggest fear of all the small ones I have, is the vaccine possibly causing infertility or causing me to have more trouble with getting pregnant,” Morgan says.

Her fears were validated when she began seeing posts in online platforms she frequents for women with polycystic ovarian syndrome. In a committed relationship with plans to get married to her boyfriend who lives in Ireland, Morgan explains that becoming a mom is something she really wants.

Obstetrician and gynecologist, Dr. Kimberlee McKay says other patients have expressed this same concern. And when they ask for her advice, the clinical vice president says she encourages patients to get vaccinated because the CDC and the Society of Maternal-Fetal Medicine believe the vaccine is safe and does not negatively impact fertility.

And Dr. McKay says if a pregnant woman or an individual with polycystic ovarian syndrome or PCOS gets COVID-19, the chances that the illness will be more severe are much greater. She references studies that even show COVID-19 to impact ovarian reserves.

“COVID’s really mean to pregnant woman. Higher pre-term birth rates, higher pre-eclampsia rates, higher rates of blood clots in moms. This is a really nasty little virus to pregnant women,” McKay says.

Before airing this story, I shared the doctor’s responses with Bill Slovek and Morgan – to see if this information impacts their vaccination decision. Here’s what they have to say.

“So I think I am going to get vaccinated. And I have been thinking a lot about it since our initial interview and I still have my concerns, reading what the doctor said, definitely puts things into a different perspective as well,” Morgan says.

 “I am not just dead set against it, if my local doctor said, “Bill you should get the shot, I’d probably do it.” But until I see the need…” Slovek says.

And at the moment, Slovek says concerns over whether or not to get the COVID-19 vaccine are not top of mind.

“We’re terrible dry out here. We were dry last fall, no subsoil moisture, no topsoil moisture going into winter. Very little snow. No rain yet this year….A month ago we shipped out a bunch of cattle that we were normally going to put on grass,” Slovek says.

When it comes to vaccine hesitancy, Dr. Basel, also references drought conditions.

“The way I describe it, is we still have a lot of dry grass on the ground, and it will only take a couple of sparks next fall to reignite some pockets of COVID if we don’t get another good 15 percent of population or so immunized. So, we got to keep working to get that last 15 percent or this will not be the last we hear of COVID,” Basel says.

If you are hesitant to get vaccinated because of concerns over vaccine safety, give your doctor a call. 

To view studies Dr. McKay references, visit our website.