For fear of social ostracism, some people in Missouri who want to be vaccinated against COVID-19 are showing up to doctor’s appointments in disguise, internist Priscilla Frase, MD, the chief medical information officer for Ozarks Healthcare, said in a clip shared on the hospital’s Facebook page on July 18. The clip has around 1,800 views.
As of this writing, Missouri has one of the lowest vaccination rates in the entire nation. Only 41 percent of the Midwestern state’s population is fully vaccinated, according to the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services [MDHSS]. Of those 2,513,969 individuals, more are female than male, multiracial than monoracial, and older than younger, MDHSS data showed.
Based on Frase’s statements, the driving force behind the reluctance may be concern for social standing. Patients aren’t only changing their appearance; they’re also begging their health care providers to be discreet.
“I work closely with our pharmacists who are leading our vaccine efforts through our organization, and one of them told me the other day that they’ve had several people come in to get vaccinated who have sort of tried to disguise their appearance and even went so far as to say, ‘Please, please, please don’t let anybody know that I got this vaccine. I don’t want my friends to know,'” Frase said. They’re “very concerned about how the people that they love within their family and within their friendship circles and their work circles are going to react if they find out that they got the vaccine,” she added.
The bottom line, Frase said, is “nobody should have to feel that pressure,” including “people who don’t want to get the vaccine.” However, she implored viewers to make informed decisions about their medical care, meaning decisions that are based on facts rather than social media diatribes or conversations with opinionated acquaintances.
“For those people that are like this, that are coming in hiding, get the vaccine, do what you have to do. Utilize face masks and cover yourself up and go get it and don’t worry about what your family members think if you yourself want the vaccine. Don’t worry about what your friends think,” she said.
Frase also noted vaccinations take place in a setting that is safe from prying eyes. “Every vaccine is given in a confidential environment. We have a private room for that. If you don’t want to be waiting in the waiting room, we’ll come out to the car for people. They can go through the drive-through. We’ll do whatever we can to accommodate,” she recently reported, according to the local news outlet Ozarks First.
Early on in the pandemic, COVID-19 transformed from a public health issue into a political one. Many prominent conservatives have raised doubts about the lethality of the disease; others have expressed concerns about the safety and efficacy of the available vaccines as well as the constitutionality of mask mandates.
On Friday, Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmitt threatened to sue over St. Louis officials’ decision to enact one such policy. In a Tweet, he wrote that “St. Louis citizens “are not subjects—they are free people.” On Tuesday, the St. Louis County Council voted 5-2 to overturn a mask mandate supported by St. Louis County Executive Dr. Sam Page and St. Louis Mayor Tishaura Jone the day after it went into effect.