Vaccine hesitancy: Here's what experts are saying about impact of Pfizer's FDA approval

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- Monday the FDA approved the Pfizer COVID -19 vaccine, removing a safety layer many were waiting for to get vaccinated.

There are multiple factors influencing vaccine hesitancy among the African American and Latino communities. Some of those factors are mistrust of government, misinformation on social media, religious reasons and safety.

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Monday's approval tackles the safety aspect many were waiting for.

"That barrier is now removed," said Dr. George Rutherford, UCSF Professor of Epidemiology.

Ahead of the approval, the FDA reviewed six months of Pfizer's safety data. In the U.S., more than 200 million doses of the Pfizer vaccine have been administered, more than 40 million doses in California alone.

Dr. Rutherford says this was a necessary step to address safety concerns among the unvaccinated.

"These vaccines have been better studied than any vaccines that I have ever seen. The amount of data, amount of scrutiny has been intense, and we know what we are going to know. I don't think there is a lot for us to know except maybe the longer term issues about immunity truly waning or not," said Dr. Rutherford.

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In line to get a COVID test in San Francisco's Mission District, we met Ruben Cruz. He explained he was waiting on more data to get vaccinated. Today instead of only getting a COVID test, he was considering the vaccine.

"Me dicen mis companeros que ya casi todos estan vacunados y ahora falto yo, (My friends tell me they are all vaccinated and I'm the only one who isn't)" Cruz said.

Ruben is not alone. Based on the latest state data Pacific Islanders, Asians, Blacks and Latinos are the minorities with lowest vaccination numbers. Nearly 45 percent of Latinos in California are unvaccinated.

Luz Pena: "What is it that is holding them back?"

Susana Rojas: "A small group of it is religious beliefs and some other ones were holding out for the full approval of the vaccine," said Rojas with the Latino Task Force.

The Latino Task Force created information sessions to target vaccine hesitancy. They schedule medical experts to answer the most common vaccine questions at workplaces, homes and schools.

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In the Black community, the African American Faith Coalition is targeting churches and religious leaders. They are taking the vaccines to the places of worship and into the neighborhoods where vaccination rates are low. They say it's all about the individual conversations.

"The FDA approval is not their main concern or the reason why they are not taking the vaccine. They are concerned with the mistrust in government, and there is also a lot of misinformation on social media that they are overwhelmed by," said Jonathan Bulter, Executive Dir. African American Faith based coalition.

Forty-seven percent of Blacks in California are unvaccinated. The African American Faith based coalition is hoping to bridge the gap.

Another group experiencing vaccine hesitancy are young adults.

Dr. Jason Nagata, UCSF's Assistant Professor of Pediatrics, found that 50 percent of young adults nationwide were holding off for safety concerns.

Luz Pena: "Do you believe that young people are going to be influenced by the inconvenience of not being vaccinated or the fact that the FDA approved the vaccine today?"

Dr. Nagata: "I think the fact that the FDA fully approved the vaccine today will be a big factor," and added, "But I do think that the rules and regulations like college's vaccination requirements or requirements to dine indoors or go to clubs or gyms will also sway a significant amount of young adults."

Another aspect contributing to vaccine hesitancy among all these groups, is the thought of long-term effects of the vaccine.

Dr. Rutherford doesn't believe there will be any long-term effects of the vaccines.

"These are mRNA vaccines, they don't enter the nucleus of the cell. They stay in the cytoplasma of the cell, so they are not taking up and put into the generic machinery. So you are not going to have this propagate or get into the hose DNA," said Dr. Rutherford.



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