Dr. Krishnakali Majumdar
March 20th 2023
COVID 19 vaccinations:
When it comes to understanding the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on societies around the globe, anthropologists have examined factors such as economically, socially and culturally that influence not only the transmission of the virus,but also how communities respond differently to the pandemic. When we are looking from the perspective of medical anthropology, the study of human societies and cultures, anthropologists have to look at the COVID -19 pandemic biologically, linguistically, culturally and historically. With that being said, obviously covid has affected the entire earth’s population and it is still a very contagious disease. Some people feel that wearing masks when sick and getting vaccinated is not important, when others realize how important it is and beneficiary to all those around them when they do so. I want to ask people the question: How do you feel about the covid vaccines and how their political backgrounds affect their thoughts and personal opinions on the vaccine and virus in general. Using critical medical anthropological theories will help us see what cultural, biological, and social factors influence COVID -19.
Although most people consider COVID 19 to be a medical crisis, it is also a cultural crisis and social crisis. “Although the COVID-19 pandemic created a public health crisis, it also was (and is) a social problem in that widespread adoption of advised public health behaviors relied on an interplay of policy, social communication, and public attitudes.” (Redbird 2022) Depending on peoples classes, covid can be more dangerous to them. People who do not have access to covid vaccines are the most vulnerable and in danger. This means people with low incomes who do not have access to health care are at some of the highest rates of other underlying health conditions which can be a problem when contracting the virus. The other group of people who are very much at risk is what we learned are people in nursing homes. The elderly population all living in a close knit space also who are more likely to have underlying health conditions due to age, are also at risk for the virus.
A lot of people seem to think that this virus has just disappeared into thin air and it’s not something that we should worry about, but that is not the case. As we become more knowledgeable about COVID 19, we are able to see the different vaccines we are offered and how effective they are, which is a very high rate of effectiveness. (Felter 2020). Health officials can build trust in their communities through clear and transparent communication about vaccines. This includes information about their effectiveness, any expected side effects, and when to return for booster shots. The most popular types of COVID-19 viruses are vector vaccines, and mRNA vaccines but there are also other ones such as protein subunit vaccines. Here in the US, the most popular ones seem to be the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines which are mRNA vaccines. Although all are a tad different, all vaccines have been shown to be efficient and lower hospitalization rates and also lower death rates.
Everyone has become very opinionated about COVID-19 and it has to do with a lot of personal experiences, but also whether people like to admit it or not their political backgrounds also play a large factor. Politicals have played a role in the vaccine and virus in general shaping people’s opinions.
In an effort to gain answers to my questions, I’ve decided I’m going to interview people. Covid has affected every single person on this earth, so I decided I’m going to ask friends, family and my old co-workers from the hospital. I have sent out surveys to friends and family. I feel like it is important that I get an unbiased answer so, by asking people with many different beliefs I feel like that is the best way to go about it. I have made it known to all of my participants that if they do not feel comfortable answering the questions, they do not have to go through with it. I sent them all the same exact message explaining my research. It is very important to make sure that all participants feel comfortable. Having been an essential worker in the pandemic and being on the ICU unit with many covid patients, I wanted to ask some of my old co-workers, also family members and friends. Before I conducted this survey I have made it known to all of my participants beforehand that if they do not feel comfortable participating in my survey, that they will not need to move forward with it. It’s very important to me to make sure all participants feel comfortable. I also explained to all of my participants why I am doing this as well.I asked a handful of questions to 50 people and for each question I had two options so it was easy to get the results. The first question I asked was: Have you received a COVID- 19 vaccine? The answers were 47 said yes and 3 said no so 94% of the survey has received the covid vaccination. The second question I asked in my survey was: Have you received a COVID- 19 booster as well as the original vaccine? The answers were 40 yes and 10 no so 80% of the people participating in the survey had received the booster. The 3rd question I asked was: Do you think an individual’s political background affects their views on the COVID-19 virus overall and the vaccine? 42 people said yes and 8 people said no therefore making 84% saying yes and 16% saying no. The next question asked was: do you think it is STILL important to take precautions if you have covid like symptoms? 35 people said yes and 15 people said no so 70% said yes and 30% said no. The next question I asked was do you think people’s income and class affect their chances of contracting the COVID- 19 virus? 47 people said yes and 3 people said no
so 94% of people said yes and 65% of people said no. The next question I asked in the survey was: do you think someone’s age affects their thoughts on getting the covid vaccine? The last question I asked in the survey was over all, do you think people are still taking covid as seriously as they should be? 33 people said yes and 17 people said no so 66% said yes and 34% said no. These were all the survey questions, but I still did some more research and also interviewed people as well. The field notes I have made are that more people than i had anticipated were for the vaccine, which is a positive thing. I also noticed that about one third thought that covid should not be serious anymore which was an interesting thing i noticed.
The first person I interviewed was my father who had a very bad case of COVID-19. My father was in the hospital with covid in October of 2020, it was a very hard time for my family and I. He was diagnosed with diabetes which was a blessing in disguise because he got the treatment he needed. In the ICU unit, he was put on a ventilator and in the middle of the night the Physician called my mother and told her she was to come to say her goodbyes. With some sort of miracle, my dad got better and is very healthy now. With that being said, something like underlying health conditions shows how serious it can be. My father said he thinks people’s personal and political opinions affect how they view the covid vaccine and also their personal experiences. He admitted that before getting the virus he did not realize how
seriously it was and is now a lot more careful. He said he thinks sometimes people need to take health more seriously and listen to what the doctors are saying. Someone else I interviewed is an old co-worker of mine named George. Being a front line covid worker he also got to see people affected by the virus first hand. I asked George some different questions. I asked him if there was a certain age group he would see and he said most of the covid patients he was given were elderly patients. I asked him what type of people would pass away in the hospital from covid and he would say the elderly patients who were not vaccinated. Getting data from people helps us put into perspective the reality of the virus. I also explained to my participants the class I am
doing for which is medical anthropology. An anthropological perspective is very important and helps us use the social and cultural contexts in how we work and help others understand how we are all different in our communities and social settings. Collecting data was useful to help understand the way people think. The survey that was taken was completely unbiased and everyone was entitled to their own opinion. When collecting data it is important that it is fair so we can take a better look at what the people have to say. It helps us see how people speak and interact with one another and how their culture and environment create the ways of how they go about life.
As of March 2023, almost 81% of the world’s population has received at least one dose of the COVID 19 vaccine. The majority of the remaining 19% of the global population did not get the vaccine because they did not have access to it due to social, economic, and cultural situations or because they refused to get it. Covid 19 vaccines are important to protect people from the virus, achieve herd immunity, reduce transmission of the virus and help our society return to a “state of normalcy” that people had before the pandemic. Although people want normalcy, it is crucial to take precautions to keep everyone safe. Another reason why the vaccine is so political is because policy makers are the ones distributing the vaccine and giving it access to the public.
Medical anthropologists look at all different approaches regarding pandemic as a whole.
Social, cultural and economic factors are used to examine the COVID 19 pandemic and how we have responded to it. Depending on the individual, and their social setting, people’s political views also make them subconsciously; because many people tend to lean with one side of getting the vaccine or not based on their political party, or not lean one way or the other when it comes to getting the vaccine. Medical anthropologists have been trying to understand how this pandemic has shaped our society. Gathering information on people’s personal views helps us understand how people make decisions, judge others and live their life .
-Felter, Claire. “COVID-19: Why Vaccination Coverage Is Important.” Council on Foreign Relations, 2020. http://www.jstor.org/stable/resrep29829. -REDBIRD, BETH, LAUREL HARBRIDGE-YONG, and RACHEL DAVIS MERSEY. “The Social and Political Impact of the COVID-19 Pandemic: An Introduction.” RSF: The Russell Sage Foundation Journal of the Social Sciences 8, no. 8 (2022): 1–30. https://www.jstor.org/stable/48704782. -Subburaj Alagarsamy, Sangeeta Mehrolia, Ushanandini Pushparaj, S Jeevananda, Explaining the intention to uptake COVID-19 vaccination using the behavioral and social drivers of vaccination (BeSD) model, Vaccine: X, 10.1016/j.jvacx.2021.100140, 10, (100140), (2022) -Xue, FX., Shen, KL. COVID-19 in children and the importance of COVID-19 vaccination. World J Pediatr 17, 462–466 (2021). https://doi.org/10.1007/s12519-021-00466-5 https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s12519-021-00466-5#citeas -Persad G, Emanuel EJ, Sangenito S, Glickman A, Phillips S, Largent EA. Public Perspectives on COVID-19 Vaccine Prioritization. JAMA Netw Open. 2021;4(4):e217943. doi:10.1001/jamanetworkopen.2021.7943