VACCINE FAQs: Doctor answers specific concerns about COVID-19 vaccine

’I’m a little reluctant’: Excitement about vaccine grows but concerns still linger

COLUMBIA, S.C. (WIS) - A new study from the Kaiser Family Foundation found 71% of Americans want to get the COVID-19 vaccine but almost 40% wanted to wait and see first.

South Carolinians are no exception.

“I’m a little reluctant until I find out if there are any possible side effects of the vaccine,” said Columbia resident Ann Taylor. “They whipped it out pretty quickly and I’m concerned about that, but it could be the answer to all our prayers.”

While many are worried about how quickly the vaccine was developed, doctors say it has been thoroughly tested through vaccine trials and all evidence shows it is safe.

But Taylor’s concerns were echoed by others asked about their willingness to take a vaccine once it’s their turn.

“I’m concerned for my family members, I’m concerned for my friends, I’m concerned for everybody,” said 17-year-old Kerwin Blake.

According to the Kaiser Study, a third of people asked were willing to get the vaccine as soon as possible.

Columbia resident William Pittman is one of those people. He said the approval from federal agencies, with the support from political leaders, was all he needed to know before rolling up his sleeve.

“With the approval from the FDA and the support of George Bush, Clinton, and Obama, those presidents are going to lead by example and get the vaccine,” Pittman said. “I think it’s a step forward to the end of this pandemic.”

Medical University of South Carolina (MUSC) Director of Emergency Medicine, Dr. Lacey MenkinSmith, received the vaccine herself on Tuesday and feels confident in its safety.

WIS asked more than a dozen South Carolinians about their worries or questions regarding the vaccine and had Dr. MenkinSmith respond to each concern.

Below are people’s answers when asked if they would get the vaccine, along with MenkinSmith’s response.

CONCERN 1: SIDE EFFECTS

ALEXX REDD: I’ve seen online that some people who already [got] the vaccine their faces are getting paralyzed in some parts.

DR. MENKINSMITH: Bell’s Palsy is a type of medical condition where part of the face becomes paralyzed. And Bell’s Palsy can come from viruses, so people who get viruses are at higher risk of having Bell’s Palsy. And sometimes it can be a reaction to certain kinds of vaccines. There has been a lot of talk about the potential of Bell’s Palsy specific to this vaccine. And none of the studies demonstrated a connection between the vaccine and Bell’s Palsy. A few participants in the studies did develop Bell’s Palsy, however, we see people developing Bell’s Palsy all the time especially in a season when we are seeing a lot of viruses in people. But there is no evidence the virus itself is causing Bell’s Palsy.

KERWIN BLAKE: I’m concerned it can cause side effects, bodily disorders, mental disorders, things people wouldn’t want to have just randomly happen to them because the government says, ‘here is a vaccine.’

DR. MENKINSMITH: There are side effects to getting the COVID-19 vaccine. What the vaccine does is it stimulates your immune system, so in the future, you recognize the virus. So, when your immune system becomes stimulated it can cause some symptoms similar to COVID-19, but typically not as severe.

So it can cause somebody aches, chill, and fever, but it shouldn’t cause a cough, shortness of breath, and all that stuff. The most common was irritation and redness at the vaccine injection site.

MenkinSmith also said there is no way for a mRNA vaccine to reach the nucleus of a cell -- meaning it will not alter a person’s DNA in any way, because it can’t.

CONCERN 2: SPEED

ANN TAYLOR: They whipped it out pretty quickly and I’m concerned about that, but it could be the answer to all our prayers.”

DR. MENKINSMITH: It definitely has come quick and that’s a good thing because we desperately needed it this year. But it has gone through all the typical phases of a vaccine trial, phase one through three. It’s also been given to tens of thousands of people and all the evidence has shown it is safe.

CONCERN 3: PREEXISTING IMMUNE DISEASE

JESSICA GAVEL: I have an autoimmune disease, so I’m excited to go out and be able to do things…I would like to see how people react to it first.

DR. MENKINSMITH: There is no evidence to suggest anyone with an autoimmune disease is at an increased risk of an adverse effect of the vaccine.

After the interview, the doctor also stressed anyone with an autoimmune disease speak to their doctor before receiving the vaccine.

CONCERN 4: IF I DON’T GET THE FLU SHOT WHY DO I NEED THIS?

SHERRI FARRELL: I don’t get the flu shots because they make me sick. So normally I don’t get sick. I raised 4 children. The whole house would get sick, but I wouldn’t. The two times I got the flu shot I got sick and chose not to get it anymore…I’m a firm believer in what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger, and I’d rather have my body be stronger to fight off the viruses themselves.

DR. MENKINSMITH: I wish everyone would get the flu shot. But that being said, we have definitely seen that COVID-19 is not the flu. People are getting significantly sicker and we are also seeing increasing mortality from COVID-19 than from the flu. This year especially, this vaccine is extremely important.

CONCERN 5: ADVERSE IMPACTS ON MINORITY COMMUNITIES

KERWIN BLAKE: I do plan on getting it, but as a minority, especially in this term at the moment, I am very delayed about -- I feel like if I get the vaccine and rush into it anything could happen… I will get the vaccine, but it will be very, very late and I’ll be 100 percent sure it actually works.

DR. MENKINSMITH: What we’ve seen with the COVID pandemic is it actually harming minority communities significantly more, so the vaccine is actually more important within that population. I think it’s important to gain the trust of that population because what we have seen historically is that there may be some mistrust to vaccination, but it’s really important we get the vaccine to those people…the studies that have been done on the vaccine included minority populations as well.

CONCERN 6: WHICH VACCINE IS BEST?

SHANI GILCHIRST: My main question is as different brands of the vaccine come out who gets what brand and which is best?

DR. MENKINSMITH: For me, I’m going to go with the one I can get today.

That being said, I think the mRNA vaccines are going to have the best immune response of all the ones being developed. And they are going to be the first ones to come out. So, we will see as additional studies are done on these other types of vaccines that use other viruses to deliver the antigen. But currently, I think the mRNA vaccines coming out are the best options.

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