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Can the science behind the COVID-19 vaccines be trusted?

A Pfizer scientists works to develop the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine at their vaccine...
A Pfizer scientists works to develop the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine at their vaccine research and development facility in Pearl River, N.Y.(Pfizer)
Published: Aug. 18, 2021 at 7:04 PM CDT
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SOUTH MISSISSIPPI (WLOX) - The emergency-use status of COVID-19 vaccines has led many to not trust them.

A Kaiser Family Foundation study shows that 75% of people who don’t plan to get vaccinated believe that the vaccine poses a greater risk to their health than COVID-19.

Singing River Registered Nurse Courtney Triplett was among them, even though she has been treating COVID-19 patients.

“Because it was new, it was something new,” Triplett said after getting her first vaccine at Singing River Pascagoula. “You think about when vaccines are created, it normally takes years, it’s time. So for that to have come out so quickly, it caused a hesitation.”

Seeing so many unvaccinated people her age getting seriously ill from the delta variant of the virus is what finally changed her mind.

When the FDA gave emergency-use approval of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine in December, it was less than a year after the virus was identified, but as Singing River Clinical Pharmacist Director Chris Ayers explained, the vaccine is not as experimental as most people think.

“The truth is that even though this vaccine is new, the science has actually been around quite a while,” Ayers said. “This mRNA technology was actually started studying back in the ‘80s.”

It was a fortunate twist of fate that BioNTech and Pfizer were already working together on applying mRNA technology for a flu vaccine. The Pfizer and Moderna vaccines use mRNA technology, and the Johnson & Johnson uses an inactivated cold virus to stimulate your immune system.

“They were already studying these vaccines anyway, so once this outbreak came about, they were basically able to take what had already been researched, get the RNA of the virus and then put it into the vaccine to be made,” he explained.

That fact is largely unknown to those who haven’t gone beyond Facebook memes to learn about the vaccines.

Tony McMillan of Moss Point expressed a common concern about the vaccines just before he began receiving the equally experimental monoclonal antibody infusion at Singing River Health System.

“Not enough information about it yet, that’s what I feel,” he said.

Even getting COVID-19 was not enough to make him change his mind.

“Still don’t know if I’m going to get it. Need to do a little more research,” McMillan said.

Millions of people have received a COVID-19 vaccine with no serious side effects. In Mississippi, 89% of the people currently hospitalized with COVID-19 are unvaccinated.

“I always just encourage people to not necessarily listen to what’s out there on social media but to really listen to the local professionals, physicians, the hospital systems here on the Coast,” Ayers said. “We’ll be honest with you about what we’re seeing, and if we say that it’s bad and what we’re seeing is real, then you can believe us.”

Numerous people that WLOX News Now have spoken to have said they won’t get a vaccine until it is given full approval by the FDA.

That could come as soon as early next month.

President Joe Biden said he expects the full approval of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine by this fall.

The New York Times has reported that the FDA hopes to get that approval by Labor Day.

“There was a tremendous amount of data to go through,” Ayers said. “I do know that the FDA has ramped up their efforts to finish up their review of that data. So hopefully in the next three weeks, in the next month, we’ll see full approval.”

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