Doctors Address Vaccine Hesitancy and Continue to Provide Info for Those on the Fence

Medical institutions are doing what they can to provide as much information as possible for people to make an informed decision

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As the COVID-19 cases continue to rise, doctors are urging people to get the vaccine, but understand that some people remain hesitant to roll up their sleeve and get a shot.

Health care professionals say providing information to tackle common questions about the vaccine, ranging from those who are trying to get pregnant, to others who are worried about long-term effects, is the only way to help ease concerns.

"Vaccine hesitancy is totally understandable, but also something we can deal with if you talk to someone you trust," said Dr. Sonja Bartolome, the associate chief quality officer for the health system at UT Southwestern and a professor of pulmonary and critical care medicine.

"Vaccine hesitancy I think roots in folks that think that they are not sure about the side effects of the vaccine, and that the FDA (Federal Drug Administration) hasn't approved it, and I think we can deal with that in a couple of ways. First, the side effects are so rare, and we have studied this vaccine more than any vaccine we've ever given," said Bartolome.

UT Southwestern has a web page dedicated to a number of questions that have come up in the last seven months regarding COVID-19 vaccines.

Families continue to have the discussion about getting vaccinated like Monica Frederick, whose mother has been in the hospital for more than a month because of COVID-19.

"My mom is my everything, she's my rock, she's our rock," said Frederick about her mother Maria Garica, 61.

She said her mother spent 22 days in a medically induced coma and was on a ventilator because of her complications from the virus. Garcia, who has diabetes, woke up having trouble breathing on July 4. As of this week, she's off the ventilator, but remains in the hospital and has a long recovery in front of her.

"Since my mom has gotten sick, at first I was terrified, I was like, 'Oh my gosh I need to go get a vaccine,' but at the same time why am I going to wait until my mom is fighting for her life to get a vaccine," said Frederick.

She expressed that she feels like it's a personal decision and said she remains vigilant in wearing her mask and sanitizing surfaces to protect herself and her family.

Frederick said she still has concerns about how fast the vaccine came out and remains on the fence about getting a shot, even after her mother's hospitalization.

"I feel like taking the vaccine for myself, I feel like I am taking the risk of having a life altering side effect and by not taking it, I’m taking the risk of getting COVID and having a life altering side effect," expressed Frederick. "Is there a time where I may change my mind, absolutely there's a time that I could change my mind, but right now  I feel like either decision I go, I'm chancing it."

Doctors from UT Southwestern say if someone does show side effects, it usually surfaces quickly, such as a sore arm, headache and fatigue. They said serious side effects usually show up within two weeks to the first couple of months after receiving a vaccine.

"For the COVID-19 vaccines, Phase 3 clinical trials followed thousands of people for 60 days post-vaccination before safety data could be submitted. Further, the V-safe After Vaccination Health Checker has created the most extensive long-term monitoring database of post-vaccine effects ever. The vaccines have been proven safe and effective in both the clinical trials and through this long-term monitoring effort," states UT Southwestern on its vaccine information page.

"Yes, we're seeing some side effects, but that's because we're studying it really closely, and the side effects are so much lower than the side effects of getting COVID-19," said Bartolome.

There have been reports of rare cases of severe side effects of the coronavirus vaccine, for example, earlier this summer Johnson & Johnson reported about 100 cases of Guillain-Barre Syndrome, out of millions who have received the shot.

Doctors continue to echo that the chance of having a rare severe reaction are low compared to getting sick.

"What you're seeing in the news is science as it occurs, and we see that when we study things very carefully. So in millions of people, we are seeing a few side effects, and that's true, but they aren't as many as the side effects, we're seeing from getting the COVID-19 virus in itself and so I understand vaccine hesitancy. I think the best thing is just talk to your doctor about your hesitancy and the benefits of getting it, and then decide for yourself," said Bartolome.

As of Monday, there are currently 1,714 COVID-19 patients in hospitals across North Texas according to the Dallas-Fort Worth Hospital Council. That is an increase of 62 from Sunday. Exactly a month ago there were 385 patients with the coronavirus in hospitals.

At Parkland Hospital in Dallas, administrators have said that every week for the last two months they've seen a 5% to 10% increase in COVID-19 patients. For example, on Monday they're treating about 84 patients.

The majority of people being hospitalized are non-vaccinated individuals.

"Just to give you some context, this is the number of patients we had in the hospital last summer during the 4th of July peak we had between 80 and 120 at that point," said Dr. Roberto de la Cruz, the Chief Clinical Officer for Parkland Health and Hospital System.

De la Cruz echoed what's being seen in hospitals around the country, that 95% of patients are not vaccinated.

He said the majority of current patients they're treating for the coronavirus are in the main hospital receiving oxygen, but about 15% of the 84 are in the Intensive Care Unit. He said they're preparing for an increase in ICU patients.

De la Cruz said they continue to do their best to inform patients of correct information so they can make an informed decision.

"I think the ongoing conversation on honesty, we need to validate when somebody is uneasy about medical treatment. you have to be empathetic about that and then you have to still be firm in your medical knowledge," said de la Cruz. "I tell people all medical societies and medical professionals are united that the vaccine is highly effective and safer than not being vaccinated which is highly important. And so as people of science, although we have to have patience with people who are hesitant, we still have to acknowledge and keep, you know, keep at it and keep convincing them and explaining to them the whys."

Frederick said her father was a pharmacist and they continue to have discussions about the vaccine. For now, she plans to continue using her mask, social distancing and being vigilant as they focus on her mother's recovery.

"I know that God answers prayers and works miracles because that’s what he did with my mom," said Frederick.

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