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COVID Vaccine - Questions and some Answers

By Vinaya Gogineni

This week has marked the much-anticipated roll-out of the COVID-19 vaccine, with Pfizer distribution already underway and Moderna close behind after its recent FDA approval for emergency use. The initial vaccination phase includes healthcare/essential personnel, those at high risk for COVID-19 due to comorbidities, and those 65 years and older. While experts do not yet know the percentage required to reach herd immunity for COVID-19, it is likely that the majority of the population will need to have received it. This requires buy-in from the general public. In order to understand what may or may not be holding people back from getting the vaccine, we decided to reach out to members of the community with the following questions:

  1. What do you know about the COVID-19 vaccine?

  2. What questions do you have about the vaccine? Where would you look for answers?

  3. Would you get the vaccine? Why/why not?

Here are some of the responses. (These are direct quotes. Please refer to the CDC website for official information on COVID-19 updates and the vaccine.)

Occupation: Home cleaning employee

Race/Ethnicity: non-Hispanic

Age: 50+ years

  • I know about the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines from the news and Dr. Fauci. There are 2 doses, and Ohio is supposed to be getting big batches of it. Healthcare and old people will go first. I have family members who are in healthcare at UC, so we’ve been getting updates. I did feel better that I’m not in the first group of people to take it. Not necessarily because I don’t think the vaccine is good. They say they’ve got 8-10 years of research and just took the head off from SARS and put COVID on there, and if Dr. Fauci says everything’s good, I feel pretty good following him.

  • I don’t think they’ve done a lot of trials for kids. I would be concerned about giving it to kids because their bodies change and grow, so I’m not sure about long term effects on them. My younger kid is hesitant about it, but he’s going to get it. In all actuality, even though the federal government can’t mandate it, employers and schools can. I would go to my primary doctor for advice/answer my question.

  • I would get the vaccine. I don’t want to get COVID-19, and I don’t think you would stop it otherwise. When people immigrated in the past and didn’t get vaccines, that’s how we got the measles again.

Occupation: Construction worker

Race/Ethnicity: Hispanic

Age: 40 years

  • I don’t know anything about it. The only thing I know is that it’s against COVID-19.

  • I have a lot of questions about it because I don’t really know exactly it’s gonna work and what other problems it’s gonna cause me if I use it. I don’t know where I would search for answers. Normally, I would google these questions, but I don’t think people put the right information on there. We hear the news, but we don’t hear a lot about the vaccine.

Your primary care doctor has a lot of information about the vaccine, the CDC is directly in communication with physicians because they know they are the first line of information for their patients (You!) Call your doctor/visit your doctor’s website, or check out the CDC vaccine page for further information

  1. I don’t feel comfortable getting the vaccine because I don’t know exactly if it’s gonna work or if it’s going to be like the flu. A lot of people use the flu vaccine and then get a lot of problems because it doesn’t work for everybody. Everyone in my family feels the same way. I think if we cover our faces and stay 6ft away, we don’t have to use the vaccine.

This is not necessarily true! The influenza vaccine never causes the flu! It does cause some mild symptoms on the first couple days as your body builds an immune response to the viral particles, but adverse effects are extremely rare (unless you have a known allergy). Unfortunately, even with mandated face coverings and social distancing requirements, we have lost over 300,000 Americans to COVID-19. We need this vaccine to help turn the tide of this pandemic and save lives! 43,538 participants were enrolled in the Pfizer trial (42% of which had “diverse backgrounds”), and 30,000 individuals participated in the Moderna trial! Phase 3 (the phase during which side effects and efficacy in comparison to other alternatives are assessed) of these trials were initially started on July 27, 2020, and that’s a significant amount of data to trust in the safety and initial efficacy of the vaccine. While there is still much to be learned (especially about the duration of immunity), we know it is safe.

Occupation: Nurse

Race/Ethnicity: non-Hispanic

Age: 25 years

  • I know that it has had great results and we know enough about vaccines that it is safe. I believe that it was based on the meningitis vaccine with added covid antigens (but I might be wrong).

  • I have no concerns whatsoever. The individuals who had negative side effects (if you can even call it that) during the studies were not immune to natural causes - therefore, there is a correlation but no causation.

  • I’ll be first in line. I want to keep my patients safe. Also, I have been lucky to not have it yet but I would like to keep my husband and myself safe. I’ve seen a lot of post covid complications in people my age, and I would feel so guilty if any of that happened to my husband because I accidentally brought it home to him one day

Occupation: Grocery store employee

Race/Ethnicity: Black

Age: 17 years

  • I’m not really sure what’s going on with the vaccine.

  • I don’t have questions about it. I would look online if I do have questions.

There is a lot of misinformation on the internet - please make sure to use verified sources like the CDC, or your state’s health department, or talk to your primary care doctor!

  • I don’t know if I personally would get it because a lot of people in my family might not. I’m not sure about their reasons. To me, since it’s a vaccine, it sounds fine to me.

Occupation: Starbucks employee

Race/Ethnicity: non-Hispanic

Age: between 20-30 years

  • I don’t really know a whole lot about it. I just kinda know the percentages of the result outcomes.

  • I have concerns about how long we’ve had it and not knowing what symptoms we’ll have from it. I honestly have no idea where to look for answers. My first thought is the internet. I’d probably ask my doctor, but I don’t know what she would know. I’d rather people be better than still have COVID-19 though.

Your primary care doctor has a lot of information about the vaccine, the CDC is directly in communication with physicians because they know they are the first line of information for their patient's (You!) Call your doctor/visit your doctor’s website, or check out the CDC vaccine page for further information

  • I would probably not get the vaccine right out of the gate. Maybe a month or so after people have gotten it and seen the results because I’m a skeptic about it.

The vaccine started phase one testing on April 29, 2020. Healthcare workers are first up and it won’t be available to the general public until those at highest risk (those living in nursing homes, front line workers) get it, so plenty of time to observe and feel comfortable!

Occupation: Speech therapist

Race/Ethnicity: Black

Age: 40 years

  • I know it comes in 2 steps and that it doesn’t have a lot of side effects. It’s not supposed to be a whole lot different from the flu shot.

  • I would like to know the effects on pregnant people and nursing mothers. I am currently pregnant, and I don’t think there have been any studies or data out on it yet. I would like to know how long the vaccine is good for - is it like the flu shot where different strains are only covered? I would like to know if you do get COVID-19 after getting the vaccine, would you get a less severe case of it? I would look at research studies and ask my physicians to answer my questions.

  • Right now, I would not get it because I’m pregnant. I don’t think it would be recommended right now because there are no studies on it. After, I would talk to my doctor to see if it’s a good idea with me nursing. I’d need to weigh the risk of me being in healthcare and then not nursing and then getting the vaccine. I’m not against it, I just want to make sure nothing is adverse for my child.

All excellent and valid concerns. It's important that everyone surrounding those who cannot get the vaccine (for the reasons mentioned above) - do get vaccinated to help create a safe ‘ring’ around them; it's a strategy for herd immunity too! During both trials, there were women who did not know they were pregnant when they participated - those women are being carefully followed to understand the effects of the vaccine. There are also many women who are currently pregnant who have chosen to vaccinate (however these women work in healthcare and are at high risk of exposure to the virus itself).

Though few in number, these responses provide valuable insight for healthcare personnel. Despite the constant influx of information from various news and social media outlets, filtering through the noise as a non-healthcare worker can be difficult and confusing. Providing patient education in layman’s terms is more timely than ever, but beyond that, healthcare professionals and public health organizations also need to be aware of patient demographics when counseling individuals. Systemic racism in healthcare and a history of medical malpractice, especially in underserved and/or minority populations, undoubtedly creates scenarios in which patients may feel suspicious of or unable to understand the purpose of the vaccine. Approaching these encounters with an awareness and acknowledgment of health disparities may help more patients make an informed decision.

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