Information, trust needed to increase COVID-19 vaccine confidence in NC

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RALEIGH, N.C (WNCN)- Willingness to receive a COVID-19 vaccine is slowly increasing but there is a still vaccine hesitancy among many North Carolinians.

Whether it’s unknowns regarding the length of immunity or apprehension of the time it took to develop the vaccine, there are a number of reasons some people continue to be reluctant. Duke Health experts say governments need to start regaining the trust of the public if they’re going to get enough people on board to make vaccine as effective as possible.

Dr. Lavanya Vasudevan, an assistant professor, family medicine and community health said, “Even a vaccine that offers short-term benefits is worth it and I think that’s something we have to communicate.”

Dr. Vasudevan said communicating that starts with informing people about the facts behind the vaccine. She warned current gaps in information create space for misinformation.

“Saying things like ‘Vaccines are safe, vaccines are effective’- those kinds of messaging really fall flat for many people who have hesitancy because they have very specific questions,” Vasudevan said.

That’s why Gary Bennett, director of the Duke Global Digital Health Science Center, said campaigns promoting the vaccine have to be personalized for each community.

“We don’t need a public service campaign, we need thousands,” Bennett said.

He said educating alone won’t cut it.

“Mistrust is a primary challenge that we’re going to be dealing with as far as vaccine hesitancy and reasons for mistrust vary considerably,” Bennet said while adding populations with higher rates of infection and deaths related to COVID-19 are seeing the largest percentage of vaccine suspicion.

Psychologist Dan Ariely said specific and empathetic messaging are key.

“Usually we say ‘Oh, it’s nonsense, just trust us’. Well, maybe it’s not the right approach. Maybe we need to take this fear seriously, with respect and explain,” he said.

Ariely believes for there to be confidence in a vaccine, the messenger in each community needs to be familiar and trusted within that population.

“Never in our history was trust so important,” said Ariely.

In the end, Dr. Vasudevan said this will all be a collective effort.

“Vaccines themselves don’t save lives, vaccinations do.”

Dr. Vasudevan

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
  • Chills in 31.9 of trial participant
  • Joint pain in 23.6% of trial participant
  • Fever in 14.2% of trial participant

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

Read the entire report presented to the FDA for vaccine approval here.

N.C. vaccine rollout plan

Source: NCDHHS

Phase 1a

  • Every health care worker at high risk for exposure to COVID-19—doctors, nurses, and all who interact and care for patients with COVID-19, including those who clean areas used by patients, and those giving vaccines to these workers.
  • Long-Term Care staff and residents— people in skilled nursing facilities and in adult, family and group homes.

Phase 1b

  • Adults with two or more chronic conditions that put them at risk of severe illness as defined by the CDC, including conditions like cancer, COPD, serious heart conditions, sickle cell disease and Type 2 diabetes, among others.
  • Adults at high risk of exposure including essential frontline workers (police, food processing, teachers), health care workers, and those living in prisons, homeless shelters, migrant and fishery housing with 2+ chronic conditions.
  • Those working in prisons, jails and homeless shelters (no chronic conditions requirement).

Phase 2

  • Essential frontline workers, health care workers, and those living in prisons, homeless shelters or migrant and fishery housing.
  • Adults 65+
  • Adults under 65 with one chronic condition that puts them at risk of severe illness as defined by the CDC.

Phase 3

  • College and university students.
  • K-12 students when there is an approved vaccine for children.
  • Those employed in jobs that are critical to society and at lower risk of exposure.

Phase 4

  • Everyone who wants a safe and effective COVID-19 vaccination.

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