Medical experts: Public perception around COVID-19 vaccine needs to change

Posted at 5:25 PM, Jan 29, 2021

As COVID-19 vaccinations are underway across the country, medical experts are working to change public perception and doubt surrounding the fastest development of a vaccine in history.

"I think people focused on maybe there's a problem instead of maybe there's a benefit," said Dr. David Sanchez, Associate Professor of Pharmaceutical Sciences at Western University of Health Sciences in Southern California.

Dr. Sanchez's interest in the vaccine is, perhaps, much more significant than his profession.

"I think it's just, as a person, I want to get through this pandemic and get over, and I see vaccines as the easiest way out," Dr. Sanchez said.

He also wanted to help with the COVID vaccine in some way.

"Just by chance on Facebook, one time I saw an ad if we wanted to volunteer to be in a trial to study one of the COVID vaccines I didn't know which at the time, I signed up- this was in September," he said.

Dr. Sanchez got the second shot in October and got a slight fever, which made him realize that he received the actual vaccine rather than a placebo. He's since had no other side effects apart from some injection site pain, familiar with many shots.

"I think what the investigators were trying to do was get a diverse group of participants in the trial," Dr. Sanchez said. "And for myself, I think they saw I was Latino. It would be good to have me be part of the clinical trial because it helped the group of people that were in it."

President of Western University Dr. Daniel Wilson said enough people must understand its value.

"I think the critical point is to get enough people who understand the value of it- both individually and at the population level to get us up to herd immunity," Dr. Wilson said. "That's the critical pivot point in any infectious pandemic."

Recently, he's been working to help change the narrative and perception around the vaccine, which he likes to remind people is a vast scientific and historic feat.

"This rollout of a vaccine is equally unique in terms of trying to massively get millions and tens of millions and ultimately hundreds of millions of people vaccinated," Dr. Wilson said. "With an effective vaccine that did not exist for a disease that did not exist a year ago."

Dr. Wilson says now, the only thing that will help is education.

"Encouragement, not trying to chastise- berate or shame people into the vaccine those who are reluctant," Dr. Wilson said. "I believe just don't have enough information."

Because it was developed and rolled out so quickly, people are wary. Like with anything new, change is different. Change is hard.

"With new things, with something different, people have a little bit of worry," Dr. Sanchez said. "What's going to happen is it going to happen to me, especially now with so much information online so many social media interactions people make up stories that aren't based in something they're worried about stuff instead."

Sanchez also says the state of science is faster than it was decades ago. This vaccine came out quickly because we could develop it quickly.

At this point, Dr. Sanchez says, our best shot at getting back to "normal" is this shot.

"That's the reason I participated in the trial- I didn't know if it was going to be safe, I wanted to be closer to that normalcy that we're looking at, and the vaccine is the best way out," Dr. Sanchez said.