ADH doctor says COVID-19 shots ‘will sell themselves’ to the vaccine hesitant

With the virus spreading so quickly and the shot literally days away, how eager are you to get the vaccine? Some aren’t so confident.

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. — With the availability of COVID-19 vaccines days away in Arkansas, the state’s epidemiologist Dr. Jennifer Dillaha says the Dept. of Health is counting on providing clear data convincing people who may be hesitant about getting shots as they become widely available.

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“I think that over time the immunizations are going to sell themselves,” Dr. Dillaha said Thursday, a few hours before a panel of federal experts recommended emergency authorization of a vaccine developed by Pfizer Pharmaceuticals and BioNTech.

Dr. Dillaha, who is also the medical director for the state’s immunization and outbreak response program, said she missed listening to the FDA panel presentation, but said all of the data that she had seen leading up to the discussion has her confident.

“We will have safe and effective vaccines,” she said. “I think over time people will come to realize that.”

Dr. Dillaha didn’t want to speculate on how many people have concerns, but she knows they are there. They appear to be larger in number than the group of people often disparaged as “anti-vaxers.” Public health officials prefer to call them “vaccine hesitant,” and when it comes to coronavirus shots, as many as 40 percent in some polls have some reluctance.

The leading reason for the lack of confidence is the unprecedented speed of the approval process, but Dr. Dillaha says the government had that kind of speed in it all along.

“The timeline was shortened because we did not do things in the U.S. in the traditional order,” she said. “Trials went on concurrently. The FDA has teams working in shifts 24/7 going over the data. And the federal government spent a prodigious amount guaranteeing they would buy up millions of doses. That was an incredible risk, because if they turned out to be ineffective, they would all have to be disposed of and thrown away.”

That might not convince some worried about a rush, but it might win over fans of cutting red tape. 

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In the end, doctors like Dillaha are going to rely on the data, and from what she’s seen, there’s plenty to make an informed decision.

“I wouldn’t want anyone to get to the point where they make a decision not to get the vaccine, for example, and then they regret it,” she said.