Health experts still fighting vaccine hesitancy as eligibility expands

EL PASO, Texas (KVIA) — As the state of Texas expands vaccine eligibility, health experts are hoping more people will opt to get the COVID-19 vaccine.

The Department of State Health Services announced Tuesday that all adults in Texas would be eligible to receive a vaccine starting Monday, March 29. Providers are still asked to prioritize the most vulnerable.

Vaccine hesitancy has been a continued concern. The nation’s top infectious disease expert Dr. Anthony Fauci spoke about the problem on Good Morning America Tuesday. He criticized a recent problem with “outdated” data in AstraZeneca’s US vaccine trial that he said could lead more Americans to cast doubt on COVID-19 vaccines.

A local infectious disease expert said many vaccine myths can be dispelled. 

One of the most common fears about the vaccines is that they were rushed. Dr. Armando Meza, the Chief of Infectious Diseases at Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center El Paso, said part of the reason for the speed is due to the rapid development of the genetic profile of the virus. He said that process previously could have taken years.

Dr. Meza said companies were able to conduct several safety trials almost at the same time instead of waiting for each to complete before starting the next. He said this was due to reassurance from the government that funding and resources would be made available. 

“Most of the studies require a step approach for the information to come back, analyze it and make a decision whether the vaccine is going to be good for continuation studies,” Dr. Meza said. “What they decided to do, these pharmaceutical companies, is to do the Phase 1, Phase 2, Phase 3 almost at the same time.”

For those concerned about possible long- term effects, Dr. Meza said studies show most serious adverse effects typically occur within the first two months of an individual receiving a vaccine. He said that’s why the FDA studied that data so closely.

“Herd immunity is only protection against the disease of COVID-19,” he said. “How you achieve that is through natural infection or through vaccination. If you are high-risk for severe COVID, getting the vaccine is your best option. There is no comparison to getting sick.”

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