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Will You Take The COVID-19 Vaccine? Some In Northeast Ohio Are Skeptical

What are your questions about the coronavirus vaccine?

ideastream's health team is answering as many questions as possible, with help from local experts in a range of fields. You can send us your questions with our online form, through our social media group, or call us at 216-916-6476. We'll keep the answers coming on our website and on the air.

The Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine may get to Ohio as soon as Dec. 15, but some ideastream listeners reached out to us and shared their concerns about how quickly the vaccine was developed.

We asked University Hospitals' infectious disease specialist Dr. Robert Salata if people should be concerned about this?

The vaccines are moving at the speed of science, Dr. Salata said.

If the vaccines aren’t safe or if they do not work, they will not get approved beyond the trial phase, he said.

Right now the science is holding up, and the efficacy rates of the vaccines are on par with some of the most effective vaccines we have available, he said.

The Pfizer and Moderna vaccines have efficacy rates around 95 percent, which is comparable to vaccines that are “the best of the best,” like the measles, mumps, and rubella vaccine, Salata said.

But, despite the encouraging data, there are groups of people who will always be skeptical of science and of the medical community, he said.

Ronnie Dunn, Interim Chief Diversity Officer at Cleveland State University, said many in the Black community are skeptical of doctors, due to the history of Black patients being as guinea pigs in scientific studies. 

“Some people are going to, obviously, take the wait and see approach,” Dunn said.

“They don’t want to be the first to take the vaccine because it’s new, and we don’t know what the long term effects might be and if it might vary among certain groups of people with certain underlying or preexisting conditions,” Dunn said.

While the first clinical trials were not totally inclusive, the vaccines have been tested on some groups of people with chronic conditions, like people who have HIV, Salata said.

But others such as pregnant women, young children, and those with unstable medical conditions like cancer, have not been tested, he said.

University Hospitals will be a part of the next round of trials, which will involve testing the efficacy in pregnant women.

Will the vaccine will be mandatory?

Stacie from Perry Township was one of many people who reached out to ideastream to ask if people will be forced to take the COVID-19 vaccine.

Many hospitals, like UH and Cleveland Clinic, require flu shots, so it’s not out of the realm of possibility that they would also mandate the coronavirus vaccine for employees.

Hospital officials from both of those systems have said they will not require employees to get the vaccine at this time.

“We need some more information to satisfy everybody that the vaccine is safe and effective,”  said Dr. Robert Wyllie, Cleveland Clinic chief medical operations officer, when asked why the hospital wouldn’t require the vaccine.

“Coupling that with we don’t have enough vaccine to go around means that we should probably only be vaccinating, at least initially, those who are comfortable with the vaccine and want to get vaccinated,” Dr. Wyllie said.

The Clinic will take a look at the issue of mandatory COVID-19 vaccines again in the future, he said.

Discussions are also taking place around whether students of all ages might be required to have the vaccine before going back to school, and whether people living in congregate facilities might be required to take the vaccine, Salata said.

An airline in Australia also announced last month they will require anyone flying with them to show proof that they’ve received the vaccine.

But it doesn’t seem likely right now that everyone will be required to take it.

Herd immunity — a phrase indicating the threshold with which the population is protected from the virus through vaccination — will occur when 70 percent of the population has antibodies, Salata said

He estimates that in the U.S., that will be about April or May, when the general public is expected to receive the vaccine.  

Can people choose which vaccine they receive?

Many people asked us if they can pick and choose between the different vaccines that are expected to be available to the general public.

Due to supply issues, there likely won't be much opportunity for choosing a preferred vaccine right away, Salata said

At first, the Pfizer vaccine might be the only one available. Millions of doses are expected to be shipped out across the country this month. Divided between 50 states, though, that’s still a limited supply.

As more vaccines are approved, like the one from Moderna the situation may change.  

It may take a while to vaccinate everyone because the demand will be high. And this isn’t just in the U.S - the entire global population will be clamoring for doses of the vaccine.

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