While COVID-19 vaccine distribution is 1 concern, UCSF doctor is also very worried about misinformation

ByKris Reyes KGO logo
Thursday, December 3, 2020
Vaccine distribution, misinformation has UC doctor worried
As California inches closer to its first shipment of COVID-19 vaccines, UCSF's Chair of Medicine Dr. Robert Wachter outlined his main concerns about distribution and which health care workers will get it first and how to tackle misinformation.

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- As California inches closer to its first shipment of COVID-19 vaccines, UCSF's Chair of Medicine has outlined his main concerns about distribution.

"Neither the CDC nor the State of California are likely to get more granular than to say health care workers, and people over 65 in long term care facilities are the first two groups," said Dr. Robert Wachter.

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The question then becomes -- which health care worker goes first. For example, UCSF is unlikely to get enough vaccines in the first shipment to cover their entire staff of 30,000.

The very complicated task of deciding which employee gets the vaccine first then falls on the hospital's management team.

"We then have to internally say, ok who goes first and who goes second what we will say is the group that's going to go first are people front line clinicians, nurses doctors respiratory therapists, transporters," said Dr. Wachter who doesn't anticipate that he'll be front of the line.

The other main concern he has: misinformation.

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As the number of coronavirus cases continued to surge across California, Gov. Gavin Newsom announced that the state is set to receive 327,000 doses of a COVID-19 vaccine in December.

"There will be thousands of people that get a vaccine and in a month or two, they have a heart attack or in a month or two, they have a stroke or a month or two, they come down with cancer, have zero to do with the vaccines, that has to be absolutely clear."

Dr. Wachter says he worries these stories will be used to discredit vaccines even after they've been approved by the FDA and despite undergoing rigorous clinical trials. He says the messaging has to be clear and consistent from the president to local health officials.

"We've gotta have a really vigorous anti-misinformation campaign and judging by how we blew it on masks, that makes me very worried," he said.

Dr. Wachter suggested that local health officials tap influencers to use social media to spread awareness about the vaccine. He also wants to see a national registry to better track those who get vaccinated.

"There's no national health record in the United States and so being sure that you got your Pfizer vaccine at UCSF or at Walgreens, we can track you and remind you to get a second one," he said.

RELATED: UK authorizes Pfizer coronavirus vaccine for emergency use

The UK is the first country to approve a fully tested COVID-19 vaccine. They're expected to start giving out shots, starting next week.

"The UK is about the same scale as California's size and does not have the complexity of how you would administer them across 50 states and 330 million people but there's certainly going to be lessons from the UK and we should learn from them."

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