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Music events like Lollapalooza are not safe right now: Doctor

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Dr. Ali Raja, Professor at Harvard Medical School, joins Yahoo Finance for the latest on the coronavirus pandemic.

Video Transcript

KRISTIN MYERS: Welcome back. The FDA is speeding up its full approval process for Pfizer's COVID-19 vaccine, while those that are vaccinated with the Johnson & Johnson vaccine can now get a booster dose of Pfizer or Moderna, at least in San Francisco. So let's chat more about the coronavirus pandemic. We're joined now by Dr. Ali Raja, professor at Harvard Medical School.

Doctor, great to have you here with us. So I'm curious to know if you think that this full FDA approval-- at least of Pfizer's vaccine-- is really going to help, perhaps, allay some of the fears that we are still seeing amongst the unvaccinated.

ALI RAJA: Kristin, I really think that it will. I'm fully supportive of this. I've got to tell you, every day in the ER here, and I hear about this all over the country from my friends and family, there are still people who are really hesitant to get the vaccines because of the fact that they're under this emergency use authorization. So this is going to definitely help them be convinced to get vaccinated.

The other side is, there's also some workplaces-- like the hospital in which I work-- that are waiting until FDA approval to put vaccine mandates into place. So it'll help there as well. Quite honestly, our patients should feel that they're safe when they come to us for care. And this, along with the masking policies we already have in place, is really going to go a long way to making sure they're as safe as possible.

KRISTIN MYERS: Doctor, we also learned today that the World Health Organization is now calling for a halt on COVID-19 boosters until at least September because they say they want to make up for a shortfall of vaccines in poorer countries. What do you make of that recommendation by WHO?

ALI RAJA: I'd like to say, I completely agree with it. I've got to tell you, we are running into this Delta variant because of the fact that it developed and mutated in countries that didn't have vaccination rates like ours, predominantly because of the vaccine just not being available. Yes, we may need boosters here, but one of the reasons that we will is the development of future infectious variants, and those variants are going to keep developing unless we help low-income countries that don't have the vaccine get their populations vaccinated.

KRISTIN MYERS: Another population that hasn't yet been vaccinated is children, at least those under the age of 12. We're about a month away now from the start of the school season. What are you anticipating to happen come September and even October, you know, once we see students back to school-- some states like Florida saying that they are not going to require their students to wear a mask while in school. Some states however, are implementing some of those mask mandates for those that are unvaccinated indoors. What are some of the fears here, and what could potentially happen, especially as we have this Delta variant surging?

Well Kristin, that's a great question. I've got to tell you, this really hits home with me. I've got two young kids-- one's seven, one's nine, and they're too young to be vaccinated. So for the third school year in a row, they're going to be really affected by this.

And they're going to be wearing masks. I want them to wear masks just because of the fact that we're seeing-- with Delta specifically-- we're seeing younger patients get infected and get hospitalized just a little bit more than we did with the earlier variants.

When-- what I'm really hoping for is that when we start seeing good data from the Pfizer vaccine, from the Moderna vaccine, from the J&J vaccine hopefully, that it's safe-- that they're safe in younger patients-- I'm hoping that those data show that they are safe, and that we can get our children vaccinated. Because honestly, they need to be in school in person, but they need to do it safely, which is going to be wearing a mask right now.

ALEXIS CHRISTOFOROUS: You know, doctor, yesterday we had the CEO of Henry Schein on. That's a medical equipment manufacturer. And he was talking about the hesitancy on the part of some people to get vaccinated. And he said he believed that your own primary physician's recommendation as to whether or not to get the vaccine was the biggest part of people's decision-making process. Have you experienced something similar?

ALI RAJA: I really have. I have to tell you, it's interesting. As an ER doctor, I meet people for the first time, most of the time, when they come to see me. And I have to build that rapport very quickly over a matter of minutes. I have to get to know them well enough so that they're willing to trust me just as much as they do their primary care doctor and tell me everything about why they came in. And I find that even with that brief period to build rapport, I can often convince patients who haven't been convinced by anybody else to get vaccinated.

Now I can only imagine that as a primary care provider, I might even be able to do that even more so, but I do agree that the primary care providers, any doctor with whom patients are connecting, they're really the key. We're really the key to getting patients convinced to be vaccinated.

KRISTIN MYERS: Doctor, I don't know if you are a music buff or if you enjoy going to some of these music festivals or if you've even just seen pictures of Lollapalooza. I wish we had some of the photos to show right now of the music festival in Chicago's Grant Park. But folks were literally crammed together by the thousands. I felt uncomfortable just looking at the photos, frankly, but everyone was supposed to be vaccinated to attend that event.

So I just-- as we are reopening right now and folks are heading back to Broadway going to restaurants and heading to some of these events, even if you are vaccinated, is it safe-- even if outdoors-- for thousands and thousands of folks to be crammed together, even if it's outdoors and even if they are vaccinated, is that safe right now?

ALI RAJA: It's a great question. The fact is that it really depends a lot, Kristin. If you're going to an outdoor concert that's on the lawn and you're fully separated out, I think it's perfectly safe. I think that if you think about what New York City is doing right now where they're implementing, honestly, a vaccine mandate to go indoor and see a Broadway show or eat at restaurants, I think that that is safe.

I think that something like Lollapalooza right now, quite honestly, from what I remember of Lollapalooza long ago, you are right in each other's faces. You're crowd surfing. Everybody is all over everybody, and even outdoors, that's just not safe right now.

KRISTIN MYERS: All right, we're going to have to leave that there. Dr. Ali Raja, professor at Harvard Medical School. Thank you so much for joining us today.