‘They really are our path forward’: Health care leaders talk combating vaccine hesitancy

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KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) – Both nationally and here at home, communities are reaching vaccination milestones.

Just last week, UT Medical Center said it had given out 50,000 doses.

But healthcare leaders are now noticing a troubling trend: vaccine hesitancy.

“I think our first vaccine clinic for Moderna at the beginning of February filled within an hour,” said Dr. Spencer Gregg, University of Tennessee Health Center Director. “Probably here over the past week, after we posted a vaccine for sign-up, it would go for a full 24 to 48 hours before we’d be full. Now today, we’re even down to where we’re not having a full clinic.”

Gregg said they are seeing some vaccine hesitancy. It’s the same trend medical professionals across the country are reporting.

“From our patient population, a lot of our folks would not see the need for it. They’re young, they’re healthy, they’re not at significant risk for severe illness if they do indeed get infected. Having to emphasize the importance of getting the vaccine, not only to protect yourself but to protect others,” Gregg said.

Knox County Health Department Director Dr. Martha Buchanan said she has noticed the same thing.

“We are starting to see that in our community. We saw it in our rural counties first, now we’re seeing it in some of the larger metropolitan counties. And we understand, it’s a new vaccine, people are a little hesitant, a little concerned,” Buchanan said.

But Buchanan says there is no reason to be.

“These vaccines are really effective. They’re really effective in reducing disease, but they’re even more effective at preventing, not just reducing, preventing severe illness and hospitalization,” she said.

Buchanan and Gregg both are sharing a similar message in response.

“We’re all tired of COVID. We’re tired of the restrictions that are in place. Really the only light at the end of the tunnel for us is to have broad immunity to this virus, and in order to reach that, we’ve got to get folks vaccinated,” Gregg said.

“They really are our path forward,” said Buchanan.

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