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Coronavirus: The risk going forward is 'general confidence in vaccines'

Adriana Belmonte
·Senior Editor
·5 min read
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Though more and more Americans have received their COVID-19 vaccines, there is still a notable share of citizens who are hesitant about getting the shot.

According to the latest data from the Kaiser Family Foundation's COVID-19 Vaccine Monitor, there is still 13% of Americans who stated they will "definitely not" get the vaccine and another 7% who indicated they would only get it if it's required of them.

“What it comes down to is the benefit-risk ratio,” Dr. Rishi Desai, former epidemic intelligence officer for the CDC and current chief medical officer at Osmosis, said on Yahoo Finance Live (video above)."The risk is not just this vaccine — it’s general confidence in vaccines.”

13% of Americans said they will not get the vaccine. (Chart: KFF)
13% of Americans said they will not get the vaccine. (Chart: KFF)

There is a 4-in-1-million chance of developing a blood clot from one of the three vaccines available in the U.S. — from Pfizer (PFE), Moderna (MRNA), or Johnson & Johnson (JNJ) — versus a 39-in-1-million chance of getting a blood clot from the virus itself.  

“Putting all this in context, these are really small, small chances, and the vaccine’s benefit is massive,” Desai said. “You’re preventing COVID-19. COVID-19 causes blood clots. Let’s not forget that the actual disease is way worse than the risk of the vaccine.”

'A long while' before things return to normal

For the country to reach herd immunity, which would allow society to return to relative normalcy, experts estimate that 80-90% of the public needs to be vaccinated.

As of April 20, there were 86,223,509 fully vaccinated Americans, according to CDC data. Exactly one month prior, there were just 47,841,273 people who were fully vaccinated. But despite the fact that now everyone over the age of 16 is eligible to receive a vaccine, people are still afraid. 

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The most common reasons for not getting the vaccine include fear of long-term side effects, disdain for public health officials like Dr. Anthony Fauci, mistrust in the government after over a year of inconsistent messaging, and vaccine misinformation.

“One thing I just want to point out is that it really comes down to your community,” Desai said. “If you live in a community where actually everyone is on board with science and getting vaccinated, and that effort is real, then good on you. Good on you for being in that community and being part of that community. You’re going to stand to benefit.”

But, Desai continued, “if you’re part of a community where the science is not trusted, people aren’t getting vaccinated because they think ‘I don’t want to do that, someone else can do that,’ then that average herd immunity threshold is not going to apply to your community. Your community is going to continue to suffer. So this isn’t going to be distributed equally and some areas are going to continue to see cases, hospitalizations, and deaths until those spots are essentially getting the vaccine at the same rate. And that might take a while.”

A demonstrator, wearing a beak doctor mask, holds up a sign at Pfizer's headquarters building, during a protest demanding just global distribution of COVID-19 vaccines during the coronavirus pandemic in New York City, U.S., March 11, 2021. REUTERS/Shannon Stapleton     TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
A demonstrator, wearing a beak doctor mask, holds up a sign at Pfizer's headquarters building, during a protest demanding just global distribution of COVID-19 vaccines during the pandemic in NYC March 11, 2021. REUTERS/Shannon Stapleton

Vaccine equity has become a central point in the COVID discussion. While some communities quickly get vaccinated, others get left behind and remain vulnerable to catching the virus and its variants.

“This unequal distribution means that some areas are going to open up and enjoy the benefit of having herd immunity, whereas others may not and may see their hospitals continue to overflow,” Desai said. “That, to me, would be one of the biggest issues when we talk about a global reopening. Some of those restrictions are still in place.”

Until this is figured out, it will be a while until things return to status quo, he said.

“How long will it be until things essentially feel normal?” Desai said. “I don’t think they’re going to feel completely normal for years. At that point, we’re going to be talking about all sorts of new things, like do you need a booster shot and things like that. So I think it’s going to be a long while before we really can collectively feel like everything is back to normal but most things are going to feel a lot better in a few months.”

'Exceedingly, vanishingly rare' chance of blood clots

Johnson & Johnson recently paused production of its COVID vaccine after the FDA and CDC called for an investigation into the link between the vaccine and at least six cases of blood clots across the country.

For some people, this made them even more skeptical over the safety and efficacy of the COVID vaccines. But according to Desai, the FDA and J&J’s actions show how seriously they take it.

“I think what happened over the last week or two with this investigation is people see that the CDC and the FDA are taking this seriously, that they’re investigating this and really looking into these cases,” Desai said. “And that they’re not just flippantly saying ‘let’s just continue vaccinating without investigating.’”

The European Medicines Agency also stated that the blood clots could be an extremely rare side effect of the vaccine, but is continuing to use it across Europe because the benefits outweigh the risks.

“If anything, this is actually a good thing that it lowers the risk of a blood clot,” Desai said. “But when people hear about blood clots, they kind of panic and freak out and think ‘Oh my gosh, is getting the vaccine going to cause a blood clot?’ The answer is obviously exceedingly, vanishingly rare, on the order of getting struck by lightning. So if that’s what’s going to stop you, that vanishingly rare side effect, what I would remind you is that the chance of that is actually higher if you’re just walking on the street without a vaccine.”

Adriana Belmonte is a reporter and editor covering politics and health care policy for Yahoo Finance. You can follow her on Twitter @adrianambells and reach her at adriana@yahoofinance.com.

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