Local health care leaders answer vaccine questions, encourage more people to get vaccinated

Reporter: Veronica Marshall Writer: Drew Hill
Published: Updated:
Credit: WINK News

COVID-19 infections, hospitalizations and deaths have declined since vaccinations began yet people some are still hesitant to get the COVID-19 vaccine. So, local health care leaders are answering questions and encouraging people to get vaccinated.

The questions being asked range from reactions to ‘how can they be safe when they were created so quickly?’

But, with 118 new cases in Southwest Florida on Monday, doctors want to remind everyone that we’re still in a pandemic.

Dr. Larry Antonucci is the president and CEO of Lee Health. “You have to weigh that unknown concern with the known risk of a virus that does cause significant illness and death and can lead to long-lasting challenges,” Dr. Antonucci.

Concerns about the unknown are very real for people with histories of severe allergic reactions, for pregnant women and people who question the process.

However, as Antonucci explains, this science isn’t new. “The technology that’s being used in the Moderna and Pfizer vaccine is called mRNA technology. And that technology has actually been in place for a number of years,” said Dr. Antonucci.

Next – the long and short-term side effects of the vaccine.

Dr. Corin DeChirico is the Chief Medical Officer for Healthcare Network of Southwest Florida. “They may have a little bit of a headache, they may have body aches, they may feel a little bit fatigued, some people have had low-grade fever,” Dr. DeChirico. “They generally disappear within the first 48 hours, 24 to 48 hours.”

Mary Beth Saunders is the System Medical Director of Epidemiology for Lee Health.

“When we look at the list of adverse effects or side effects of medication of any type, you may see lots of things listed – some of them very low 1%,” said Dr. Saunders. “And we don’t always know that those can directly be attributed to a vaccine or medication. But if they were reported during that time period, they get listed as an adverse event.”

“If you look historically at vaccine use over many, many decades, we don’t really see long term effects related to vaccines,” said Dr. Antonucci.

Doctors do see long-term effects related to viral illnesses and other conditions.

Ilia Echevarria is the director of NCH’s COVID-19 Response Team. “We are seeing viral infection in a younger population. And hence the reason why the emergency use authorization was extended to that 12 and up age group. So it is not an older population virus. It affects all ages,” said Echevarria.

“At Lee Health, we have 100 patients today that are sick enough to be in the hospital,” said Dr. Antonucci.

Experts say the COVID-19 vaccine is only part of the answer for getting back to normal. The rest comes from us and our comfort levels with letting go of masks and realizing there are some safe activities.

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