Ceoli Jacoby.
Courtesy of Ceoli Jacoby
  • Ceoli Jacoby, a University of Maryland in the US student, convinced her boyfriend to get the Covid-19 vaccine.
  • Her boyfriend was sceptical due to a bad reaction to the meningitis vaccine as a child.
  • This is her story, as told to freelance writer Meira Gebel.
  • For more stories go to www.BusinessInsider.co.za.

This as-told-to essay comes from a conversation about vaccine hesitancy with Ceoli Jacoby, a 20-year-old student at the University of Maryland. It has been edited for length and clarity.

My boyfriend and I started dating in February 2020, shortly before the pandemic. Over the last 18 months, we've been sure to wear masks and social distance, but it wasn't until this past March, when the vaccine started rolling out to the public, that I learned my boyfriend was hesitant and didn't plan on getting it.

When he was a child, my boyfriend developed muscular dystrophy in his upper arm after getting meningitis vaccine, resulting in a small divot. His reaction was reported to the CDC at the time, and even though he was young when the reaction happened, it made an impression on him. He told me it was the main reason for his hesitancy toward the Covid-19 vaccine. (While side effects that could appear long after getting the shot are a big reason for vaccine hesitancy, science shows they're highly unlikely.)

I've never had a bad reaction to a vaccine. I've gotten the flu vaccine every year, the HPV vaccine when I was eligible, and received the Johnson & Johnson shot in April.

In March, we started having conversations about the vaccine

I'm very anti-disinformation and wanted my boyfriend to have the most up-to-date information and statistics out there to address his questions. My boyfriend's initial vaccine concern was because he didn't know if it had long-term side effects and didn't want to be an "early adopter."

I reassured him that was a common sentiment, but I told him potential adverse reactions are rare, and would show up within six weeks. He told me he would reevaluate in six months.

But our conversations didn't stop there. Over the summer, we attended a few outdoor events.

The first was my sister's graduation party. Since my boyfriend was going to be the only unvaccinated person there, I asked him to wear a mask and he agreed. But when we attended one of our friend's wedding, he was one of the only people there who was not vaccinated yet, so it caused some tension.

There were times where my boyfriend would hear or read vaccine misinformation that I would have to dispel

When news came out that in rare cases the vaccine may cause a rare heart condition, myocarditis, my boyfriend started talking about how, since he had a bad reaction to a vaccine before, he may get this condition. I wanted to make sure he had the right information, so I started researching myocarditis and compiling statistics to share with him.

I found that the risk of getting myocarditis from Covid-19 vaccines is minuscule: about 0.004% of young men, for example. Then I added that according to one study, 2.7% of young adults aged 18 to 29 who were hospitalised with Covid-19 died.

I told him that, sure, he may have an adverse reaction. But it's statistically more likely that he could lose his life because of the coronavirus - or have life-altering long-term symptoms from contracting it - than get a rare heart condition from the vaccine.

It's been six months since he initially said he'd reevaluate getting the vaccine, and he got his first dose last weekend

Throughout the last few months, while I've expressed urgency that he get the vaccine and told him dragging his feet only put himself and his family more at risk, I also knew that the worst thing I could do was give him an ultimatum.

My anxiety has also been very high since he said he didn't want to get the vaccine right away. I worried he would contract Covid-19, and with what we're starting to see now with the Delta variant, it's very possible for unvaccinated people to spread the virus to vaccinated people.

But every time we spoke about the vaccine and his scepticism, I refrained from passing any moral judgement. I realised the best thing I could do was to try to figure out what exactly he was worried about and dispel any myths that were fuelling those worries.

While waiting for my boyfriend to embrace the idea of vaccination was frustrating, I understand his concern

I understand it may seem easier to cut loved ones out of your life who are hesitant about the vaccine, but all you are doing is cutting off their only source of information, making it easier for them to retreat into more misinformation and feel ostracised. Take the time to figure out why they are reluctant, and provide them with accurate information.

While there still should be a sense of urgency to get more people vaccinated, it's not going to be just one conversation.

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