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Memphis News & Weather | Memphis, TN | WATN - localmemphis.com

Shelby County health experts encourage public to focus on data - not emotion - when considering COVID-19 vaccine

A new AP-NORC survey shows skepticism among the American public about getting the vaccine when it becomes readily available to public next year.

MEMPHIS, Tenn. — "Doing nothing is not always the safest thing," Dr. Steve Threlkeld with Baptist Memorial Hospital said.

That's the message from one of the leading medical minds in Memphis as the United States - and Mid-South - is on the cusp of its first widespread COVID-19 vaccinations.

"When you think about getting a vaccine, make sure you are really looking at apples and apples and comparing numbers about risks," Dr. Threlkeld said.

Three separate vaccine trials to date show at least a 70% effectiveness rate.

Still, on Wednesday, Britain's medical regulator cautioned people with severe allergies about taking the Pfizer vaccine, as doctors look to see if two severe reactions on the first day of doses were linked. 

Dr. Threlkeld said such a small sample size isn't cause for major concern.

"There is a long, long, long way from two people with allergic tendencies in the first place having an allergic reaction, where they are apparently doing ok and have recovered. There's a long way from there to 'I'm not going to take this vaccine because I think it's dangerous'," Dr. Threlkeld said.

According to a new Associated Press survey Wednesday, out of more than 1100 people sampled, 47% said they plan to get a COVID vaccine, another 27% said they weren't sure, and 26% didn't plan to be vaccinated.

"I hope that people, when they look at the safety of this vaccine ,will say 'well the numbers are this and the mathematics are this' - not just 'I'm afraid of that and I'm not going to get it'," Dr. Threlkeld said.

Leading health experts believe it will take at least 70% of the American population to be vaccinated to get to a point where enough people are protected to keep COVID-19 at bay long-term.

Vaccine doses are expected to be available for the wider U.S. public in the spring and summer.