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How confident are you in a COVID-19 vaccine? Community members and experts weigh in

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Posted at 5:36 PM, Dec 04, 2020
and last updated 2020-12-04 20:36:16-05

As we get closer to a COVID-19 vaccine, one question is whether people will be willing to take a new shot.

Many experts believe the FDA is getting very close to approving a vaccine from Pfizer and/or Moderna and these vaccines could be the exit strategy needed to get out of this pandemic.

“For me, it's a life-saver, a game-changer,” said Nipomo resident Victor Tose. “I trust the people at CDC and the doctors that have been talking about it like Dr. Fauci. I can't wait to take it and hopefully, it will make us a lot freer."

While there are mixed opinions, those in high-risk populations say the vaccine would free them from isolation.

“We are elderly and don't get out much, so like everybody else, a little freedom to move around and see family and get hugs,” Pismo Beach resident John Marcus said.

Marcus said there are still a lot of unknowns.

“As encouraging as it is, there are going to be some long-term things that we aren’t going to know about until we get into it,” Marcus said.

Others are hopeful but still uncertain, like one woman taking the advice of her primary care doctor, who said she would wait.

“If there's a distribution of at least a million people that have been vaccinated, that's when [my doctor said she] would consider taking it to see the reaction of those injected with the vaccine,” Pismo Beach resident Elsa Ilsehipfel said.

Three former presidents, Barack Obama, George W. Bush and Bill Clinton, said they'd even be willing to take a coronavius vaccine on camera to promote public confidence.

When asked if she would be comfortable taking the vaccine right away, Dr, Lynn Fitzgibbons, chair of the Santa Barbara Cottage Hospital’s Infectious Disease Department, said it would be premature to make that decision and is waiting for federal and international approval before taking a vaccine.

"We're really eagerly waiting to hear the FDA's decision and hear more about the safety information, but every signal that we've seen so far is that these vaccines sound to be very safe and really are potentially our ripcord, our parachute, our safety escape from this whole experience,” Dr. Fitzgibbons said.

Understanding the vaccines

Companies like Pfizer and Moderna are using mRNA technology, a new technique where a small amount of mRNA containing a code for a COVID-19 spike protein is injected into your body.

"The idea is if we give a body some mRNA, the body's own cells will recognize that, read it, do what it's supposed to do, and make the spike protein,” Dr. Lynn Fitzgibbons said. “As it circulates in someone's body, their immune system will recognize it as not their own, figure out how to beat it, and basically develop some antibodies and some memory T-cells so when that person's body is exposed to SARS-CoV-2 spike protein, presumably exposed to someone who is infectious, they will know how to handle it and be protected."

The new technology allows for rapid mass production, which she said wasn’t available with previous vaccine technology.

“When you look at our old technology, it would have been impossible to make billions of vaccine doses within just a small number of months and that looks to be what Pfizer and Moderna are promising,” she said.

Dr. Fitzgibbons says vaccines should be judged on efficacy and safety and early data shows these potential vaccines hit the mark so far.

However, early recipients could experience what’s called systematic side effects like chills or muscle aches, which might turn people away.

This can happen as a person’s immune system reacts to the vaccine injection.

“We anticipate that they will have the same experience as the clinical trial participants, especially on the second dose of vaccine for 24 to 48 hours I understand had some of those systemic side effects,” she said.

Local health officials anticipate it arriving on the Central Coast mid to late-December.

The CDC will prioritize health care workers and people living in long-term health care facilities to receive a vaccine once it is approved.