Lubbock received nearly 5,000 doses of the first emergency-authorized Pfizer coronavirus vaccine this week.
Pulmonologist Dr. Brian Williams was one of the first in line at Covenant Medical Center.
“I’ve avoided COVID for the last nine months despite taking care of COVID patients every day, taking care of thousands of people,” Williams said. “So the fact that I can get the vaccine is quite amazing.”
The vaccine offers hope to strained healthcare workers, but Williams said there’s still a long road ahead.
Hospital employees have been prioritized in the initial rollout of the coronavirus vaccine. But once it’s more widely available, experts will have to convince people to get it. Williams said that could be a challenge.
“People are using whatever conspiracy theory they want to use to reassure themselves that they don’t want to take a vaccine,” the respiratory system specialist said.
Covenant Health Infectious Disease Specialist Dr. Dennis Duriex debunked conspiracy theories at a healthcare worker roundtable hosted by the City of Lubbock on Wednesday.
“The vaccine will not make females infertile,” he said, giving a few examples of rumors spread through social media and disreputable sources. “The vaccine does not act as a GPS tracker that would allow the government to track your movements.”
Duriex explained how the mRNA vaccine currently available works. Messenger RNA is a genetic material that comes from a very small piece of a virus.
“This little piece of virus is not infectious and does not give you COVID,” Duriex said. “However, it does trick the body into believing it has become infected and it forms antibodies.”
A new poll from the Episcopal Health Foundation found 63% of Texans are likely to get the coronavirus vaccine once it becomes available to them. That's up slightly from their last survey in September.
Nationally, a Kaiser Family Foundation poll shows 71% of respondents would get vaccinated.
Dr. Steven Berk, executive vice president of the Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center, dean of the School of Medicine and an infectious disease physician, said 70% of the population would need to have antibodies against the coronavirus before “herd immunity” can happen.
“What herd immunity means is that we know for most infections, once about 70% of the population has antibodies to an infectious disease, that infectious disease dies out,” Berk said.
Because of the efficacy of the Pfizer vaccine, and others expected to hit the market soon, Berk said that’s possible.
“So if 80% of the population were to get the vaccine and it was 90% effective,” Berk said, “then more than 70% of everyone would have antibody and then we would predict that the COVID-19 pandemic would end in this country if we had that high a vaccination rate.”
The Pfizer-BioNTech mRNA vaccine currently available to frontline healthcare workers is a two-dose immunization a few weeks apart. A second vaccine from Moderna could be fully authorized for emergency use as early as Friday.
The general public who are not in vulnerable groups are expected to be eligible for a coronavirus vaccine in the spring or summer of 2021.
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