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Doctors address COVID-19 vaccine misinformation

Posted at 2:59 PM, Apr 22, 2021
and last updated 2021-04-22 14:59:14-04

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WTXL) — When it comes to getting vaccinated, doctors say social media is spreading misinformation quickly. Now their goal is to stop it to help get more people comfortable with being vaccinated.

Doctors say misinformation is a contributing factor to another increase in cases. As on April 20th, Tallahassee Memorial Healthcare is treating four COVID-19 patients. Capital Regional Medical Center is treating nine.
An increase in case numbers that Capital Regional Medical Center Medical Director of Hospitalists Dr. William Geers says could have been avoided.

"We have people upstairs we're taking care of. They opted out of the vaccine and they probably wouldn't be hospitalized if they hadn't," said Dr. Geers.

FSU Primary Health physician Dr. Daniel Van Durme says misinformation is causing a slow down in the country's ability to return to normal.

"I've seen and dealt with a lot of people with a great deal of vaccine hesitancy and it's causing all sorts of problems. It is what stops us from being able to return to normal activities and getting our lives back," said Dr. Van Durme.

Medical Experts say there's no one reason why people don't feel comfortable taking the COVID-19 vaccine; but various misinformation is now spreading rapidly.

"We're in the home stretch of covid. Hopefully by next year, we'll have things under control," said Dr. Geers.

He says the biggest issue standing in their way right now is misinformation surrounding COVID-19 and its vaccine.

"In this case, social media really has been extremely harmful in dealing with this virus, this illness itself, and with the vaccine use," added Dr. Van Durme.

ABC 27 turned to you on social media to ask those who have decided to skip the shot what's stopping you?

For BJ, he says because he caught COVID, his antibodies should be enough. Doctors says it's not as simple as that.

"The antibody that you get from catching COVID is not nearly as strong as with the vaccine. The vaccine antibody is up to 10 times higher. Even if you've already had COVID, it's a great idea to get the vaccine just to be sure that you've got enough antibodies to protect yourself, " said Dr. Geers.

Mandy writes that she's worried about her pregnancy as well as the future of her fertility.. Those concerns are also echoed by Florida State Students. Jake Mossing says getting the vaccine was a no-brainer for him, but he still has friends and family who are apprehensive.

"They believe it affects male reproduction, female reproduction. This is all new. People don't know what's going to happen down the road," he said.

However, medical experts say there's no evidence to backup those claims.

"There's no biological plausibility. That's a fancy way of saying 'Is there some logical way that this might connect to a woman's fertility chances?' No. There's no logical, plausible way. It's really just a falsehood spread by social media." said Dr. Van Durmen.

One of the biggest concerns raised is how quickly the vaccine received an emergency use authorization from the Food and Drug Administration. Dr. Daniel Van Durme says the process should be trusted because it's not new technology. Instead, scientists used an existing vaccine formula and changed the virus protein to match the COVID-19 virus.

"The technology has been around for many years. Almost 10 years for the technology used in Pfizer and Moderna, and for the others, it's even older than that. It's not brand new, it's using stuff that we've known about for a long time with other vaccines," he said.

Dr. Van Durme adds there's no reason to question the vaccine trial period.

"We've studied it in so many more people. With Ebola, rabies, it's so rare, that you've got to have a small group of people and follow them for a longer period of time to figure out how it works. COVID is so widespread, we were quickly able to study it in tens of thousands of people," he added.

In Leon County, 23,304 people out of the 106,394 people vaccinated are 16-34 years-old. Doctors say age isn't enough to spare you from the virus.

"Young and healthy people have died from this as well. Yes, it goes up as you get older. I just looked at the numbers. Over 35,000 people have died in the ages of 20-50. They're relatively young. 20-year-olds, 30-year-olds that are healthy can still get it and die," said Dr. Van Durme.

Dr. Geers says there's also no reason to worry about which vaccine is best.

"A lot of get hung up on the numbers about the 95% effectiveness with Moderna and Pfizer. Virtually all 3 of them are 100% effective at preventing mortality and hospitalizations," said Dr. Geers. "That's really what we're aiming for, is not to prevent anybody from ever catching COVID-19, but making sure nobody winds up hospitalized or dying from COVID."