Mental health experts weigh in on vaccine hesitancy

Wichita, KS (KWCH) – Vaccine hesitancy remains a problem in the United States. More than 162 million Americans have received their bullets. That leaves us still less than 50 percent. Here in Kansas, just over 41 percent of people have been vaccinated.

Deciding to get the shot isn’t easy for some people like Renee Carrion. She contracted the virus twice and was taken to the hospital. Even during the difficulties, she said she was not ready for a vaccine.

“I know people think because I got to the point of absorption twice and then I was hospitalized, and ordered what I did with my aunt, I was going to be the first on board. Well I don’t.” Carrion said.

It nit that simple, Carrion said. She said that thinking about the side effects is what worries her most.

“I don’t want to be vaccinated,” Carrion said. “I don’t want to get sick. I have friends who had COVID and they got very sick after the first shot, and they had anxiety. We can relate.

She said it was a traumatic experience.

“That day I didn’t feel well,” Carrion said. “Immediately I started having panic attacks. The anxiety started. I was that way, which is why I don’t want this again.”

Eric Letwiler of the Mental Health Association said many Covid survivors are now dealing with PTSD.

“We’ve been expecting PTSD since the last rally,” Letwiler said. “Hearing that people are living, especially those who have had to be hospitalized because of it, is not unusual or unexpected.”

Psychologist Molly Allen said avoiding the vaccine is a coping mechanism.

“It seems in her mind that this is a very distant effect rather than an immediate effect,” Allen said. “So it’s okay, I just want to avoid the immediate effect. I’ll deal with the far effect later. Again, it’s kind of based on wishful thinking rather than facts.”

Both experts encourage people to reflect on their decisions, and to consider what is at stake.

“How long does the pain of getting an injection last? Half a second and it’s over,” Allen said. “How long is your pain with COVID? Days, weeks, months, your age.”

Mental health experts have said 31 per cent of people who commute long distances with Covid will develop a neurological or mental illness six months after recovery.

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