Study shows Flint water crisis is a factor for some in vaccine hesitancy

Right now Detroit's vaccination rate hovers around 40 percent.  So why aren't people getting the covid shot that's so readily available?

"We can't look at people who are vaccine-hesitant necessarily as being these crazy people," said Dr. Cedric Taylor.

Taylor is an associate professor of sociology at Central Michigan University. He just finished a study on people in Mid-Michigan and Southeast Michigan who are hesitant to get the COVID-19 vaccine.

He says The notion that people who choose not to get the shot just don't get it, is wrong.

"You do have a demographic that is fairly well-educated and have degrees that are also suspicious about the vaccination," Taylor said.

Dr. Taylor directed and co-produced the documentary film "Nor Any Drop to Drink: Flint's Water Crisis."

That was in 2018. Taylor went on to study how Mid-Michigan and Southeast Michigan residents who didn't want to get the vaccine were affected by the Flint water crisis and the distrust that seeped into their mindsets.

"The Flint water crisis has had an impact on how residents and how citizens in Genesee County and in Southeast Michigan and how they are navigating efforts with respect to mass vaccination," said Dr. Taylor.

The numbers provide a stunning look at just how many are weary. Of the more than 1,000 people polled in Metro Detroit and Flint, here's what they found:

  • One-third of Detroit & Flint residents polled say they won't get the vaccine
  • Sixty percent believe the vaccine isn't safe.
  • Half believe you can get covid from vaccine

The study shows there was distrust of the government before the Flint water crisis and it just got worse. 

So what's the antidote?  Dr. Taylor says it's what you're reading and watching and where you're getting the information from.  Fringe websites, some cable news commentary shows and yes, social media.

"Facebook is another source through which many people are getting information that is not accurate," he said. "If people want really helpful and accurate information as far as Covid is concerned, the CDC go on that website they have a variety of different accurate pieces of information."

With the COVID-19  variants being the wild card, there's deep concern that a large number of people who don't get the vaccine could help boost the virus's ability to thrive and create more variants.

The fear is that some of those future variants may be resistant to the current vaccines, affecting not just those who are hesitant but those who got the shot.

"What this means is, that now if you have more people being hesitant, this gives more opportunity for variants to emerge and for the outbreak to take place, and ultimately more loss of life," he said.

Taylor says shaming people into getting the vaccine doesn't help. The greatest chance to inlfuence and inform vaccine hesitant members of a community is not from outsiders, but from those who live there.