Will vaccine hesitancy thwart our efforts to reach herd immunity? Researcher explains

Doctors say the more people get the vaccine, the closer we get to the end of this pandemic. But some are reluctant to get it and others are simply not interested. Will this thwart our efforts to get to herd immunity? Researchers seek to examine the reasons for vaccine hesitancy in order to find solutions.

Ariel Gross of Rialto is expecting her third child

"I'm hesitant, just about the few reactions that I've heard people have had," the 30-year-old said.

And her doctors haven't given her much reassurance when it comes to COVID-19 vaccines.

"I haven't heard too many stories of pregnant women taking the vaccine," she said. "So that makes me more hesitant on top of just being hesitant already."

"I would say your opinion is respected," said Dr. Tony Firek, who is the director of medical research at Riverside University Health System.

As vaccine eligibility continues to open up, Firek and his colleagues conducted an employee survey to get a clearer sense of how much hesitancy exists.

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"It's consistent with what we're seeing from other centers and our population," he said. "We may have upwards of 20% to 30% of what we call vaccine hesitancy emerging."

L.A. County health officials predict we could reach herd immunity by June, so that could be our first real world test of vaccine acceptance.

Firek said for those on the fence, a major issue is the fact the vaccine came about quickly.

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"It does appear that those that are hesitant do have some kind of a concern about the safety of the vaccine," he said.

The survey also found people who are young and healthy have less interest in getting it, and there's a large group who want to wait and let herd immunity happen without them.

"Because other people have committed to be vaccinated, I don't need to be vaccinated," Firek said, explaining what some people may be thinking.

Vaccine maker Pfizer is expected to seek out full FDA approval, which some experts hope may help sway those who are reluctant. Tirek said another solution is to have a discussion with a health care provider you trust.

"I think that's one of the biggest things that has shown to be very reliable in terms of assisting with overcoming this hesitancy," he said.

Gross says she's still hesitant, but she'll keep looking at the science.

"It's different for everybody but I would just say continue to do your research," she said.

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