RALEIGH, N.C.(WNCN) – While the state is making efforts to vaccinate marginalized communities, people in those populations are still hesitant. Gaining their trust is especially difficult when health care workers are also refusing vaccines.

On Thursday, it was Penella Washington’s turn for her second dose of the COVID-19 vaccine. Washington is the CEO of Advance Community Health and she said it was a good feeling.

“That’s something I wish for other people to realize, how comforting it is when you know you’ve been vaccinated,” Washington said.

However, so far only half of her staff have said they want a vaccine.

“We’ve had about 21-percent of our staff have out and out refused. We have about another 20-percent of our staff who have said, I want to wait and see,” Washington explained.

Enrique Hernandez was one of those employees who initially refused a vaccine. He wanted to wait a year to see what everyone else’s experience was. Those plans changed when his best friend tested positive for the virus.

“I got the call here at work. I just immediately got nervous. Like, wow, I was just with him, my kids, my wife,’ said Hernandez.

He’s now says people should do their homework on the vaccine to clear up any misconceptions or misinformation they may have received.

“Talk to your health care providers, just doing a research,” he said.

Washington thinks hesitancy has to do with confusing information circulating and the speed of the vaccines’ arrivals.

While it was Operation Warp Speed that brought two vaccines to the public within a year of the start to the pandemic, that speed has some people concerned.

“They’re not quite sure what to believe and what not to,” said Washington.

Advance Community Health focuses on bringing services to marginalized communities but up to 35-percent of their patients don’t want the vaccine right now either.

“Some have out and out refused and said, don’t call me again,” said Washington.

She said others, like her own staff, want to wait to learn more before making up their mind.

“I can still understand why people are hesitant. Like my wife still doesn’t want to take it or her mother, so I get why,” Hernandez said.

Washington says they are working to educate patients and employees in person, through social media, and any other way they can. She knows changing their mindsets won’t happen overnight.

“It’s going to be an ongoing challenge. I think it’s going to be about time,” Washington said.

Click here to register for a vaccine with Advance Community Health.

Severe vaccine reactions

The CDC allows severe reactions to be submitted online through their Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System.

That system shows that out of North Carolina’s 1.8 million doses, fewer than 300 patients have reported serious vaccine reactions. Most of those were reported after taking the Pfizer/BioNtech vaccine.

It’s important to note that while these are reported incidents, they’re not verified by the CDC to be accurate or actually related to the vaccine. These reports were submitted voluntarily and likely contact biases according to the CDC. The website itself warns “reports alone cannot be used to determine if a vaccine caused or contributed to an adverse event or illness.”


So far, no deaths or hospitalizations have been reported from the vaccine.

Moderna vaccine side effects

Less than 10% of reactions were listed as severe. Below are the most common side effects Moderna reports to the FDA.

  • Injection site reaction in 91.6% of patients
  • Fatigue in 68.5% of patients
  • Headache in 63% of patients
  • Muscle pain in 59.6% of patients
  • Joint pain in 44.8% of patients
  • Chills in 43.4% of patients

Pfizer vaccine side effects

In a report to the FDA, Pfizer reported a number of mild to moderate side effects associated with their vaccine. Those side effects were:

  • Injection site reactions in 84.1% of trial participants
  • Fatigue in 62.9% of trial participant
  • Headache in 55.1% of participants
  • Muscle pain in 38.3% of trial participant
  • Joint pain in 23.6% of trial participant
  • Chills in 31.9 of trial participant
  • Fever in 14.2% of trial participant

These side effects were found to be severe in less than 5% of trial participants, according to the report.