Many celebrated following the Pfizer vaccine’s Dallas arrival on Monday, but despite its 95% efficacy rate, persuading some North Texans to take it could be a challenge.
That’s why the county’s health department is teaming with local leaders, hospital systems and other community partners to craft a vaccine awareness campaign. Dr. Philip Huang, director of Dallas County Health and Human Services, said the campaign will provide the public with pertinent vaccine information, including why it’s safe to take.
Huang said the speed with which the Pfizer vaccine was released has caused concern among some people. Some may be wary of taking the vaccine because of the way it’s been politicized; President Donald Trump's chief of staff, for instance, threatened to fire the Food and Drug Administration commissioner if he didn’t approve it by last Friday. Though there's no indication his threat had any effect at all on the FDA, it might have had an effect on the public.
“That’s sort of counterproductive to building trust,” Huang said.
In addition, Scientific American has reported that some conspiracy theorists believe that the COVID-19 vaccine is a Trojan horse for the implantation of a surveillance microchip device. Meanwhile, certain minority groups are hesitant because of the medical establishment’s history of racist practices, including the Tuskegee study in which Black participants with syphilis were denied proper treatment.
Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins said the awareness campaign will dispel myths surrounding the way the vaccine functions. Some people are worried that getting the vaccine could make them sick with COVID-19, which won’t be the case.
Pfizer’s inoculation doesn’t contain the virus that causes the disease itself, but it will still render the virus ineffective at making people ill, Jenkins said.
One challenge the county could face is ensuring the vaccine’s equitable distribution, Jenkins said. Pharmacies should refer to the county’s equity tool to make sure that high-risk groups are being prioritized, such as health care workers and nursing home residents.
Jenkins said he’s confident in the vaccine’s efficacy.
“I will get it, without hesitation, when it’s my turn,” he said.
As of now, it looks as though the general population won’t have access to the Pfizer vaccine until sometime between July and October of next year, Huang said. That, of course, is subject to change as other vaccines get the green light. A vaccine from Moderna is expected to earn FDA emergency use authorization as soon as Friday, according to The Hill.
Texans in particular are hesitant to sign up for coronavirus inoculation. In October, The Texas Tribune reported that only 42% of the state’s registered voters said they would get a COVID vaccine if it were available at a low cost.
The true number could have shifted in recent months, but 42% is far short of the percentage needed to hit herd immunity, when enough people achieve immunity to prevent further transmissions. The nation’s top infectious disease expert, Dr. Anthony Fauci, said close to 85% of the country needs to be vaccinated to reach true herd immunity, according to Vox.
Even as some people refuse to take the vaccine, coronavirus cases continue to climb. Tuesday, Dallas County saw an additional 1,947 COVID-19 cases and six deaths, according to the county’s health department. The day before, neighboring Denton County reported it only had four remaining ICU beds, according to NBC-DFW.
Some people who cannot take the vaccine will remain at risk so long as others refuse it.
Musician Michael Carrasco said he can’t get the vaccine, but he would if he could. The Plano resident has a rare genetic disorder, known as GATA2 deficiency, which prevents him from being able to take it. His 18-year-old daughter also has the same deficiency, and she’s still recovering from a bone marrow transplant that she had earlier this year.
Because they are immunocompromised, Carrasco said he and his family are diligently abiding by all coronavirus safety guidelines. Catching COVID-19 could potentially have devastating effects on their health.
Although he understands why some people may be reluctant to take the vaccine, Carrasco said he appreciates those who decide to do so.
“There’s a lot of people that are immunocompromised that can’t get the vaccine, or might not be able to get a vaccine for several years,” he said. “So if we have a large majority of the population go out and volunteer to get it, that’s super helpful to all of us who can’t.”