Duke health experts grapple with how to get skeptics to wear masks

DURHAM, N.C. (WTVD) -- On the verge of a COVID-19 vaccine, public health officials are working to win over skeptics -- those unsure of whether they should get the vaccine and those still questioning the effectiveness of mask-wearing.

Duke University health experts weighed in on the issue in a virtual panel Dec. 10, saying now, more than ever, getting behind the mask will help slow the spread of the virus.

Dan Ariely, professor of psychology and behavioral economics, said one reason some people are still skeptical of wearing a mask is because of their own personal experience. Ariely compared it to ignoring laws against texting and driving; just because you do it once and avoid an accident doesn't make it any less dangerous.

He suggests friendly enforcement to get buy-in from the community at large.

"Let's think about taxes," he said. "If 10 percent don't pay taxes we have 10 percent less taxes, but if 10 percent of the people don't adhere to corona -- we all lose. We are all waiting for this vaccination, but it's kind of amazing to say we did not have the willpower to wear masks, keep social distancing for a month. If we did it in a consistent way, things could be very, very different."

As for vaccines, experts said trust cannot be built overnight, but high rates of vaccinations is the best bet at getting the pandemic under control.

"Having effective vaccines like we have right now are critical," said Lavanya Vasudevan, Asst. Prof. of Family Medicine and Community Health. "But vaccines themselves don't save lives; vaccinations do."
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