8News virtual town hall gives locals chance to ask health officials about COVID-19 vaccine

Coronavirus

RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — Locals with uncertainties about the COVID-19 vaccine aired their questions to state health officials in an 8News special Wednesday night titled ‘Virginia Vaccinates.’

While the states’ top health officials say the Pfizer vaccine is safe, for those wary of getting it, top doctors said vaccine trials have included people with pre-existing conditions. With doubt lingering about the vaccine, doctors say: trust the science.

“Very mild side effects to the vaccine. 95 percent effective. The 5 percent who got the disease got a very mild disease. This is a very effective vaccine,” VDH Commissioner Dr. Norm Oliver said.

Dr. Costco Sifri from University of Virginia Health, adds, “the research that was the foundation for the basis of these vaccines occurred for the last 10 years or so, with the first understanding of these other coronaviruses that have caused significant disease in humans.”

During the 90-minute special, health officials, including VDH Epidemiologist Marshal Vogt, helped eased the concerns of locals.

“We are going to see more vaccine candidates available for use, which will increase the supply of a vaccine,” he said. “By the time we hit spring and into summer, vaccines will be very widely available.”

Health care workers continue to receive the Pfizer vaccine. Long term care facility residents are next, followed by those working in high-risk settings.

Dr. Ebony Hilton with UVA says because those who had the virus reacted differently and developed different immunity, getting the vaccine is important.

“We know that immunity does wane. Even in our clinical trial, there are people that had COVID before that were still included in the vaccination trials. And what they saw is actually they had an improvement in their overall immune response,” she said.

There’s a 21-day wait between Pfizer’s first dose and the second. If authorized by the FDA, there will be a 28 day period between Moderna doses. What about possible side effects?

Officials said the first shot may include arm soreness and tiredness, while the second could show additional responses.

Marvin Figueroa, Virginia Deputy Secretary of Health and Human Services, spoke during the virtual town hall about establishing trust in populations of people of color.

“We have higher ethical standards now” he said; adding that people of color are integrated in vaccine trials and development.

One question raised was whether the vaccine will be free for everyone. The short answer from Dr. Oliver: Yes.

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