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Growing number of unvaccinated Americans express public regrets

Maybe those who used to oppose vaccinations, but who now regret it, can help change the minds of those who thought as they did?

The Washington Post reported over the weekend on a 39-year-old Nevada man who thought it'd be a good idea to wait before getting vaccinated. Then he ended up in an intensive care unit.

"I should have gotten the damn vaccine," the man texted to his fiancé from his hospital bed. He died soon after, leaving behind young children, including a 17-month-old.

To be sure, there's no shortage of anecdotes like these, featuring Americans who made a conscious choice to avoid the vaccines, only to regret it after getting sick. The New York Times also reported over the weekend on the "unlikely group of people speaking out in the polarized national debate over vaccination: the remorseful."

Amid a resurgence of coronavirus infections and deaths, some people who once rejected the vaccines or simply waited too long are now grappling with the consequences, often in raw, public ways. A number are speaking from hospital beds, at funerals and in obituaries about their regrets, about the pain of enduring the virus and watching unvaccinated family members die gasping for breath.

The Times' article added that in largely conservative, unvaccinated parts of the country, officials have "begun to recruit Covid survivors as public health messengers of last resort. The hope is that onetime skeptics might just persuade others who dismissed vaccination campaigns led by President Biden, Dr. Anthony S. Fauci and armies of local doctors and health workers."

And this is precisely why I find myself preoccupied with reports like these. For months, there's been an ongoing conversation about the answer to a difficult question: what's the best way to convince people to do the right thing? I wonder about this in part because of people in my own family who should get vaccinated, but still refuse.

Perhaps this unique group -- families that didn't get vaccinated, and are now dealing with gut-wrenching regret -- may be the only group of Americans who can influence others who are like them.

Clearly, many of those avoiding the free miracle cure don't want to hear from scientists. Or public-health officials. Or political leaders. Or religious leaders. Or celebrities. Or journalists.

Maybe they'll listen to folks who, up until recently, thought the way they think?