UCSF doctor answers questions on COVID-19 vaccine side effects, workplace requirements, reopening plans

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Thursday, April 8, 2021
UCSF doctor answers questions on vaccine side effects, reopening
UCSF Doctor Bob Wachter joined our Getting Answers show to discuss vaccines efficacy and California's reopening plans on Wednesday, April 7, 2021.

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- There are many topics of interest on the pandemic, ranging from survivors suffering mental disorders to California fully reopening by mid-June to new worries about the AstraZeneca vaccine.

Joining us live to get some answers is the chair of the Department of Medicine at UCSF, Doctor Bob Wachter.

Let's start with the new study published in the Lancet about two long-term disorders we're seeing in COVID survivors. Can you talk about that?

"Recent studies show a higher rate of cognitive problems, depression, anxiety," said Dr. Watcher. "A whole bunch of things that are yet one other reason why, if you can avoid having COVID-19, that would be great."

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Disturbing development on the AstraZeneca vaccine, which has not been approved yet for use in the U.S. But it may still get the go-ahead and we do have millions of doses of it. What did European regulators determine about AstraZeneca and blood clots? Causal?

"Blood clots are very common," said Watcher. "What they have seen is rare, but a higher than expected amount, of pretty unusual blood clots in the brain associated with a low platelet count. And they have not fully worked out for sure whether that's a side effect of the vaccine, but my guess is it's going to turn out to be a rare kind of one-in-a-million side effect of the vaccine."

He assures that despite the findings, it should not deter people from getting vaccines.

"You're still better off getting vaccinated than not, the risk of COVID-19 is far higher," said Watcher. "But it is an unexpected side effect, which has led some regulators to say we're not going to give it, for example, to younger patients who are at lower risk of dying from COVID-19."

RELATED: Biden makes all adults eligible for COVID-19 vaccine on April 19

You said for the unvaccinated, this may be the most dangerous time in the pandemic. Why?

"There's a decent chance that you are now facing, if you encounter someone with COVID-19, facing a virus that's better at its job," said Watcher. "The U.K. virus is also more serious and more likely to be fatal."

Given that, what do you think about the state planning to reopen everything and lose the color tiers that we've all gotten used to by June 15?

"I think by that time, everyone who wants to be vaccinated, and I hope everyone does, will have had the opportunity to be vaccinated. I think there's every reason to believe California will continue to do well. We're doing great right now, but we're not completely out of the woods."

CDC said this week young people are driving the latest surge in infections nationwide. Is that because they haven't been vaccinated? Is it because they're resuming contact through school, sports and open movie theaters?

"Most older people are now at least partly protected with vaccinations. Younger people are not, yet we are opening up," said Watcher. "And so, it's an odd time where things are massively safer than they were if you've been vaccinated, but it's actually somewhat riskier than they were if they haven't."

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Do you think schools and employers should require vaccinations? what are you concerns with that?

"I personally think it's a good idea," said Watcher. "For certain workplaces, working in a nursing home, working in a school, having the kids in school once the kids are eligible for vaccination. I think it's perfectly reasonable to require vaccinations, certainly the entire place is safer."

Dr. Walker is also guest-hosting a podcast called "In the Bubble." You can find that here.

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