Port: Maybe the way to fight vaccine hesitancy is to do less?

It may sound paradoxical, but many of the things we're doing to combat false information about vaccine, and hesitancy to get vaccinated, may be doing more harm than good.

Covid vaccine
A medical professional draws a dose of the coronavirus vaccine into a syringe back in February 2021. John M. Steiner / The Sun
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MINOT, N.D. — North Dakota's progress on vaccinations has stalled.

In March, the state averaged 6,013 doses administered per day. In April that average was 3,980 per day. By May we were down to 1,492 per day, and June saw the daily average drop to 1,023.

So far in July, we're averaging just 563 doses, with a long way to go before we hit the coverage rates experts say we need to extinguish the threat of COVID-19 .

In June I wrote that our state's one-dose vaccination rate had finally crossed the 50% milestone, but even that good news has been reeled back in. Per the state Department of Health's vaccination data dashboard , the one-dose coverage rate is back down to 48.4% as of July 11.

I'm not sure why that is — a call to the Department of Health as I wrote this column wasn't immediately returned — but perhaps expanded eligibility and population shifts have impacted the calculation?


Whatever the reason, the campaign to get people vaccinated in our state has stalled.

What can be done?
I still believe the state ought to be organizing some package of incentives to entice the hesitant, but beyond that, I wonder if we'll have to accept the slow trickle of new doses as what's possible.

Though we could, also, review all the things we're doing which aren't helping.

Earlier this year the North Dakota Department of Health launched a cold call program to promote vaccines, and it was quickly flagged by a couple of lawmakers — Republican Sens. Nicole Poolman (Bismarck) and Jessica Bell (Beulah) — who urged State Health Officer Dr. Nizar Wehbi to stop them.

At the national level, President Joe Biden's administration has ticked off many by announcing a door-to-door campaign to promote the efficacy of the vaccines.

It may seem paradoxical to those of us who believe in the vaccines and want to see them proliferate for the safety of us all, but these well-intentioned efforts aren't helping.

If your vaccination campaign promotes more rancor and further entrenchment, just what are you accomplishing?

The campaign against vaccine misinformation is similarly misguided. It is rampant on social media, to be sure. Every time I write positively about vaccines I get a flurry of indignantly ignorant communications citing a number of crackpot claims about them.


I understand the impulse to fight that nonsense, but instead of fighting that speech with more speech, our platforms, most notably the social media giants who are also under pressure from the government to take action, have responded with censorship campaigns that have turned ranting morons into speech martyrs.

Setting aside the very real concerns from a free speech perspective, these efforts haven't slowed the disinformation campaigns. They've helped fuel them.

What if we did less?

It may be worth a shot. What we've done so far hasn't worked.

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Rob Port, founder of, is a Forum Communications commentator. Reach him on Twitter at @robport or via email at .


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Rob Port

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Rob Port

Rob Port is a news reporter, columnist, and podcast host for the Forum News Service. He has an extensive background in investigations and public records. He has covered political events in North Dakota and the upper Midwest for two decades. Reach him at Click here to subscribe to his Plain Talk podcast.
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