Don Mosier, MD, PhD
ACOVID-19 vaccine site, the North County Coastal Vaccination Super Station, opened on Friday, Feb. 12 at the Del Mar Fairgrounds. The site is open for both drive-thru and pedestrian vaccination. The vaccine administration is handled by Scripps Health personnel in coordination with the county health department. Appointments are available on the county’s vaccination website at www.vaccinationsuperstationsd.com. Kudos to newly elected County Supervisor Terra Lawson-Remer for her key role in locating this vaccine site in Del Mar. This will be a convenient site for all Del Mar residents to get vaccinated as the eligibility criteria expand and more vaccine doses are available. The sooner the better as more transmissible coronavirus variants are spreading, and vaccination will stop the spread if most of us get the vaccine.
We don’t know how many Del Mar residents have concerns that might prevent them from getting the COVID-19 vaccine, but we do know that 1/3 of Americans say they will not take the vaccine (reported in Los Angeles Times Feb. 11th edition). Concerns raised by those unwilling to be vaccinated are lack of efficacy, concern about side effects, distrust of government mandates, and dismissal that COVID-19 is a serious threat to them. Let’s address the concerns in order:
1. Lack of efficacy – Both the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines protected 95% of trial participants from COVID-19 disease and death. These are outstanding results compared to other vaccines, as confirmed by Dr. Anthony Fauci, a trusted expert on this topic.
2. Side effects – Both vaccines require 2 doses. Side effects were minimal after the first dose, and only slightly greater after the second dose. Common side effects were local muscle soreness, a low grade fever, fatigue, and headache. These symptoms resolved in 2-3 days. Allergic responses have occurred in individuals with a history of severe allergies, but they are exceedingly rare. Nonetheless, each vaccine site has allergy medication at the ready in case of any allergy symptoms. Over 5 million Californians have been vaccinated as of Feb. 12th, and no severe side effects have been observed.
3. Distrust of government mandates – 44% of Black Californians say they will not get vaccinated. Many cite mistrust of medical authorities because they have historically suffered mistreatment at their hands. The 42% of Republicans who say they will not get the vaccine are more likely to watch Fox News than the general public. Anti-vaxxers are more common among affluent white citizens.
4. COVID-19 is “not a threat” (500,000 deaths say it is) – Younger Americans who have not had a family member or friend die from COVID tend to dismiss the seriousness of the disease. While older citizens are at highest risk for death, 35 San Diego County residents younger than 40 have died from COVID-19 since the pandemic began. Younger citizens are also more influenced by social media and the internet, both of which are rife with vaccine misinformation.
The current estimate is that 80% of us need to get vaccinated to achieve “herd immunity” (the point at which virus transmission cannot be sustained because each exposure has only a 20% chance of resulting in infection) and bring an end to this pandemic. That means that we need to convince the majority of the vaccine skeptics that it is in their interest to get vaccinated. It certainly is in our interest.