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Is Lack of Government Transparency on COVID Vaccines Creating Vax Hesitancy?

Two frontline doctors discuss the reasons behind vaccine hesitancy, as well as whether a one size fits all approach to COVID is most effective.

Dr. Armand Dorian, a clinical professor of emergency medicine and Chief Medical Officer for Verdugo Hills Hospital at the University of Southern California, and Dr. Thomas Yadegar, the medical director of the intensive care unit at Providence Cedars Sinai Medical Center, discuss vaccine hesitancy, misinformation about COVID-19, and natural immunity.

Dorian asserts that the best path to herd immunity is through vaccination. Yadegar shares his experiences of treating COVID-19 in the ICU, saying how it ravages every organ in the body to the point that patients lose hope and give up fighting.

In terms of vaccine hesitancy, Dorian says he will always allow an individual to make their own decision. He then likens getting vaccinated to obeying traffic rules: While you might feel that stopping at traffic lights somehow infringes on your liberty, doing so is a rule of society that has kept us all safe. “Having street lights save lives and having vaccinations save lives,” he says.

On the topic of vaccine hesitancy, Yadegar says that a major reason for the hesitancy is that the government hasn’t been completely transparent about the potential unknown risks associated with the vaccine. “We haven't had honest, consistent, and coherent messaging,” Yadegar says. When that happens, people seek out alternative sources.

The doctors then discuss a common belief that vaccination is not the solution once a pandemic reaches a certain point, as the vaccine itself could create variants. Those who subscribe to this belief feel the best course of action is natural immunity, which would mean allowing more people, particularly younger people and those not at high risk, to contract COVID. Yadegar responds by saying that although that might work in theory, “This is a global pandemic. You can't think of it as just yourself and your immediate family and households” because you could pass it on to someone else who might die.

“Our mantra [as physicians] is ‘do no harm,’” says Dorian, which he says is contrary to the idea that it’s acceptable to allow some people to get sick. “That's not natural immunity. That is basically saying, ‘Let's infect people and it's okay if some people die.’”

As for controversial early-treatment methods, such as Ivermectin, Dorian says that, in the middle of a pandemic, trying new methods is acceptable, as long as the science is behind it. “Just because I'm a doctor doesn't mean I should have the right to tell you to do something without some basis,” he says.