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Frontline doctor gets COVID-19 vaccine live on air

University of Virginia Associate Professor of Surgery, Dr. Michael D. Williams, joined Yahoo Finance Live to discuss the rollout for the new COVID-19 vaccine and the importance of its accessibility to the public.

Video Transcript

ADAM SHAPIRO: Back to COVID, and we want to bring in Anjalee Khemlani because we've got some good news here, Anjalee, along with a guest, Dr. Michael D. Williams. Anjalee, take it away.

ANJALEE KHEMLANI: Thank you, Adam. Michael-- Dr. Michael Williams, thanks so much for joining us, General Surgeon at UVA Health who is ready to take his COVID-19 shot live on air with us. And this discussion came, of course, as we know that vaccine confidence is such a key. So, Dr. Williams, thanks again. Are you ready for your shot?

MICHAEL D. WILLIAMS: Absolutely. I can't wait. Here we go.

ANJALEE KHEMLANI: All right. And I know that this is the Pfizer-BioNTech shot. So we know that there are some side effects that are anticipated. Have you ever had a reaction to a shot before?

MICHAEL D. WILLIAMS: I have not, and I have no allergy to medications.

ANJALEE KHEMLANI: OK.

MICHAEL D. WILLIAMS: In that regard--

ANJALEE KHEMLANI: That's good.

MICHAEL D. WILLIAMS: --I'm relatively low risk than some.

ANJALEE KHEMLANI: So we definitely won't have you pass out on air, I think.

MICHAEL D. WILLIAMS: No, no.

ANJALEE KHEMLANI: That's a good sign. [LAUGHS]

MICHAEL D. WILLIAMS: [LAUGHS] Hopefully. I'm in very good hands. Look at this [INAUDIBLE].

ANJALEE KHEMLANI: While you're getting your shot-- yeah. So let us know what it feels like. I see it going in right now. Ooh. For anyone who can't handle shots, that was the time to look away. How are you feeling?

MICHAEL D. WILLIAMS: I feel fine. The flu shot is actually much more impactful for your arm than this was. It was really nothing to speak of.

ANJALEE KHEMLANI: Oh, that's good. That's good to hear. So I know that, of course, this came-- and thank you for doing this. This came out of a conversation we had, you know, because of the vaccine-confidence confusions and misinformation that's out there and also the concerns about minorities, and I want to specifically talk to you about that. We've seen a number of individuals in these photo ops at hospitals get the shots, and a good number of them are minorities. And people are noticing that, saying that maybe it's a forced sort of circumstance. I'd love to hear your thoughts on that.

MICHAEL D. WILLIAMS: Yeah. Well, I would say certainly here at UVA, this is-- that's not an accident with some of that imagery. It's intentional. And as you point out, because of the long history of mistrust and, frankly, poor treatment of people of color by the US health-care system writ large, we are trying to send a message, and I think it's not just here at UVA Health but all around the country. Those who are at highest risk happen to be African American or Latino or Latina and/or Indigenous folks who are living in the Midwest part or the Western part of the country who describe themselves as Native American.

So as a result of that mistrust, a lot of us who are on the front line, including myself and, as I said, Elizabeth, who is one of our COVID ICU nurses in her regular day, night, weekend, holiday job, has stepped up to do some vaccinations.

And the goal, as you say, is to send a very strong and clear message that not only is the vaccine safe but it's also critically important that those who are at highest risk are receiving it early in this pandemic response.

ADAM SHAPIRO: Dr. Williams, it's Adam Shapiro.

ANJALEE KHEMLANI: Absolutely. And to that point, I know that--

ADAM SHAPIRO: I wanted to jump in.

ANJALEE KHEMLANI: --Surgeon General Jerome Adams in a conversation I had with him, you know, talking about the Tuskegee experiment live on air at GWU earlier this week. I wonder, is that the way to kind of craft the message properly and get, you know, specific minorities to sort of validate the specific experiences and have the mainstream awareness?

MICHAEL D. WILLIAMS: So until I'm the surgeon general myself, I don't want to criticize a sitting official. I will say that there's risk with bringing out the, albeit critically important history that is Tuskegee, at this time. I think potentially it might have been an even more valuable conversation to have a few months ago and even when Operation Warp Speed was first conceived and rolled out so that people could understand the history and why there might be reticence.

One of the things that we are trying to address here at UVA Health is how to develop the correct message for folks who might be reticent for whatever reason, particularly if it's based on historical concerns. And so having the conversation about Tuskegee and any other similar events that have occurred in the US history's past is, as I said, double edged.

It is critically important, I think, that Americans in general understand what Tuskegee was and what its impact has been and also understand that many of those who experienced it directly or indirectly are still alive. I'm 53, so it was in my--

ADAM SHAPIRO: Real quick.

MICHAEL D. WILLIAMS: --lifetime that it took place.

ADAM SHAPIRO: Help us understand something. We know that you're wearing the mask and will continue to wear the mask, but you've got the inoculation now. How long until your body starts to respond to protect you from COVID-19?

MICHAEL D. WILLIAMS: So the very good news is that the data that Pfizer released through the FDA shows that my immune system, being a normal immune system, will begin to help me be protected as early as in the next few hours. I will not claim that I'll be protected because we don't really know. They didn't-- rightly didn't measure antibody levels within a few hours of injection.

What we do know from their data is that the first injection provides up to a little over half of the population that received it with antibody that seems protective and that the second dose brought that number up over 90%. And so the two doses by themselves-- in combination appear to be most effective. So I won't consider myself, based on the data and the evidence that's available, to be protected as fully as I can be from this vaccine for another three weeks.

SEANA SMITH: Doctor, just talk to us just about obtaining the vaccine and how the logistical side of it has worked over the past couple of days because that was a big concern going into this, especially when it comes to Pfizer's vaccine.

MICHAEL D. WILLIAMS: Sure. Well, to be honest, here at UVA Health, we got our first doses here on campus, if you will, yesterday morning, and the first injection was yesterday at 2:00 in the afternoon. So the timeline has been very tight. A team of experts well beyond my expertise as a surgeon and a critical-care doctor have been working around the clock to get the supply here as quickly as we could, and it was a FedEx process. So there's a bit of a public-private combination involved in this as well.

And then get it handled appropriately, identify experts like Elizabeth, who's at hand, sitting here.

- Hi.

MICHAEL D. WILLIAMS: --who could be repurpose to not be working their regular shift but stand a post here in the clinic that we've set up to get vaccines going. We did 81, I believe, yesterday, and we're on track to get about 700 of our team members vaccinated in the first week or so.

ADAM SHAPIRO: Dr. Michael D. Williams, thank you so much for joining us, and we appreciate watching you get the shot live on Yahoo Finance. And Anjalee Khemlani, all the best to you.