Will FDA approval convince New Hanover County residents to get vaccinated?

WILMINGTON, NC (WWAY) — On Monday, the FDA granted full approval to the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine after studying months of data from more than 200 million vaccinations.

Dr. Paul Kamitsuka, Infectious Disease Physician at Wilmington Health and Chief Epidemiologist at NHRMC, says the number of COVID-19 hospitalizations in New Hanover County jumped from just two to more than 100 in a matter of weeks.

“The vast majority are unvaccinated,” Kamitsuka said. “We see some vaccine breakthroughs, but it’s like less than one percent.”

Data shows young adults have some of the lowest vaccination rates. Kamitsuka says that choice is coming with devastating consequences.

“We’ve had some real tragic situations- one family where a son, a father, and a grandfather all contracted COVID and all three died,” he said. “We had a four-month-old who was on the respirator, on the ventilator, because that child’s parents didn’t get vaccinated.”

Kamitsuka hopes the Pfizer vaccine gaining full FDA approval will convince more people to get the shot.

“I know people are still clinging to a notion that there may be some long term unforeseen side effects,” he said. “But again, it has never happened in the history of vaccines where some untoward long term side effect was not already known about within six weeks. There has never been any pharmaceutical product that has had so much scrutiny, both in the terms of effectiveness as well as safety, than this one.”

Some in the Wilmington community share Kamitsuka’s sentiment, including nurse practitioner Emily Yount.

“Yesterday I was talking to a patient and he portrayed concerns about the vaccine not having FDA approval,” Yount said. “I expressed to him if it did get approval, would he choose to vaccinate and he said that would be a contributing factor.”

Others, like resident Tamir Selby, say FDA approval plays no part in their decision.

“I don’t know, I probably still feel the same,” Selby said. I feel like people who want to take it should be able to take it, people who don’t shouldn’t be forced to take it. I know I don’t want it. I don’t even get the flu shot.”

However Kamitsuka says by choosing not to get vaccinated, you’re increasing the risk for the creation of new variants like the highly contagious delta variant.

“If you’re not vaccinated, you will likely get infected, and the more infections there are, the more mutations that arise,” he said.

The Moderna and Johnson & Johnson vaccines are still under emergency use authorization. Moderna is currently undergoing the FDA approval process.

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