Millions of Americans have received a vaccine to protect against COVID-19, yet there is still reluctance among some groups to get vaccinated.
The Latino community represents one-third (33.4%) of the total population of San Diego County and, as of the end of February, has recorded more than half (55.6%) of the total cases of COVID-19 in the county. But only 17.3% of people who have been vaccinated in San Diego County are Latino.
Dr. Brenda Green, a family medicine doctor with Sharp Rees-Stealy Medical Group, estimates that about 40% of the patients in her practice are Latino, and she says that the majority can’t wait to roll up their sleeves to get their shots.
“Most of my patients are really excited about getting the vaccine,” says Dr. Green, who was born in Mexico. “They are hopeful that this represents the beginning of the end of this pandemic. However, I do hear reluctance from some patients to getting the vaccine. Continued education is vital to addressing these concerns.”
As Dr. Green explains, “Naturally, people have questions regarding possible long- and short-term side effects of this new vaccine. I am always happy to educate my patients in this regard. It helps that my colleagues and I have had the experience of receiving the vaccine ourselves so we can reassure them with real-life examples of what to expect. Patients like it when we share our personal stories.”
Dr. Green is a strong proponent of the vaccination program. “The vaccines help the body to produce antibodies to fight against the virus that causes COVID-19, and are highly effective in preventing severe illness and serious complications from COVID-19,” she says.
She notes that many questions from her patients are related to the safety of the vaccine, given that its use began under Emergency Use Authorization by the Food and Drug Administration — what some people may consider a “fast approval” for the vaccine.
Dr. Green says many of her senior patients who got COVID-19 were exposed to the virus from living in large households with multiple generations — including individuals who had been exposed while performing essential jobs in the community.
Questions about the COVID-19 vaccine and fertility
Among her patients, common misconceptions or myths about the vaccine are related to pregnancy and fertility issues.
“Some of my patients ask if the vaccine will cause DNA alteration, harm during pregnancy or problems with infertility in the future,” says Dr. Green. “The mRNA fragment of the vaccine does not interact with a person’s DNA because the mRNA does not enter the nucleus of the cell. They would not cross the mother-baby barrier in pregnancy and there is no evidence that women who have contracted COVID-19 have increased infertility risk.”
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), based on how mRNA vaccines work, experts believe they are unlikely to pose a specific risk for people who are pregnant. However, the actual risks of mRNA vaccines to the pregnant woman and her fetus are unknown because these vaccines have not been studied in pregnant women.
Dr. Green views ongoing education and awareness as the key elements in dispelling misinformation and getting everyone on board with the vaccine program. However, the benefit of receiving a COVID-19 vaccine may outweigh the theoretical risks.
“We need to continue to offer one-on-one discussions regarding the vaccines with our patients, in addition to providing community outreach programs for vaccine education.”
Learn more about COVID-19 vaccines and how to sign up to receive a vaccine when it is your turn.