As Tara Moyes drove by the vaccination site last Monday, she flipped off the demonstrators picketing outside. While she admits the move “was not very nice,” it was a reflexive reaction: Vaccine opponents really get under her skin.
The North Texas mom had taken her 15-year-old kid to get vaccinated at the Arlington ISD Athletics Center. Her 8-year-old daughter, who Moyes says is “on the spectrum,” came along for the ride.
But Moyes said her younger child got upset when she saw the protesters’ signs, some of which brazenly claimed that “vaccines cause death.”
“With a child who is incredibly literal and who is afraid of needles and has sensory issues — and who already has high anxiety about a lot of the stuff that’s going on — her eyes got really wide,” Moyes said. “And she said, ‘Death? It can cause death?’
“I got really angry,” she continued. “Because I mean, I’ll have a heck of a time trying to get her to get her shot when the time comes.”
The number of coronavirus cases and deaths nationwide has fallen in recent days, with public health experts crediting the country’s robust vaccination program. Many would like to see COVID-19 shots become mandatory, but many “vaccine choice” supporters decry it as an infringement on personal liberty.
Moyes regularly signs up her family for immunizations, such as the flu shot, but she said it can be a struggle for her younger daughter. Even having a bit of blood drawn can cause “a lot of extra stress.”
Still, Moyes said she’ll take her 8-year-old to get the COVID-19 vaccine when it’s available to her.
Several organizations are advocating for Texans' right to opt out of vaccinations, including Texans for Vaccine Choice (TFVC). Executive Director Jackie Schlegel said her group has a “deep respect for the doctor-patient relationship,” and despite some reports to the contrary, she insists TFVC is not anti-vaccine.
Like with other inoculations, TFVC encourages families to consult with their medical provider on whether to have their kids vaccinated against COVID-19, Schlegel said.
“I think wherever anybody lands on this, truly the world would be a much better place if we were compassionate and respectful of each other’s choice,” she said. “This is a big talking point right now, but there’s room for all of us. We just need to respect each other’s voice in the matter.”
Uncertainty surrounding vaccines is somewhat normal in Texas.
In April, 32% of Texans said they were unsure or would refuse to get a COVID-19 vaccine as soon as it’s available to them, according to a University of Texas/Texas Tribune poll. And another poll from that month found that nearly 1 in 5 Texans don't believe vaccines are safe in general.
Earlier this month, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention began recommending vaccines for everyone 12 and older.
Last week, Gov. Greg Abbott banned schools and government entities from imposing mask mandates, and Dr. Philip Huang, director of Dallas County’s health department, fears the governor’s order may have complicated vaccination efforts. In Dallas County, the number of people receiving COVID-19 vaccines has slowed in recent days.
Some doctors worry that vaccine hesitancy could frustrate herd immunity. Yet while many Texans are unsure whether they want to get the shot, Huang said the science is clear.
“When you get fully vaccinated … it’s real protection against severe illness,” he said. “You’re not getting asymptomatic illness and spreading it to others.”
Meanwhile, vaccine misinformation has popped up in the Texas Capitol this session.
During a hearing earlier this month, state Sen. Bob Hall said COVID-19 vaccine testing on animals was halted because they were dying. The Edgewood Republican also said humans were not used in testing, making the American people de facto “guinea pigs.” Both claims are lies, according to FactCheck.org.
Still, a clip of those comments began circulating on social media. Although it’s unlikely to pass, critics fear Hall's bill seeking to ban COVID-19 vaccine mandates could bolster the anti-vaccine movement.
Moyes is frustrated that vaccination has become a "political thing.” More than data, strong “anti-truth” and “anti-science” undercurrents are sweeping today’s politics and policy, she said.
“I just can’t understand myths and strange beliefs having more impact on the decisions that our policymakers make. And that is the most frustrating thing to me, because I just don’t know how to,” Moyes said, pausing for a beat, “I don’t know how to protect myself and my children from that.”
Keep the Dallas Observer Free... Since we started the Dallas Observer, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Dallas, and we would like to keep it that way. Offering our readers free access to incisive coverage of local news, food and culture. Producing stories on everything from political scandals to the hottest new bands, with gutsy reporting, stylish writing, and staffers who've won everything from the Society of Professional Journalists' Sigma Delta Chi feature-writing award to the Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism. But with local journalism's existence under siege and advertising revenue setbacks having a larger impact, it is important now more than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" membership program, allowing us to keep covering Dallas with no paywalls.