Local doctor dispels common COVID-19 misconceptions

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ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. – Local health experts addressed people’s concerns about the emergency use of the COVID-19 vaccines, as well as the hesitancy people have about vaccinations.

Dr. Mark Epstein, CEO of True Health New Mexico, said he understands people’s concerns.

"It’s unfortunate there is hesitancy, they are hearing so many messages from so many places, they are not sure where to turn for the right information," said Epstein.

He said the fears people have don’t offset the proven benefits of the vaccine.

"Far and away, the risks of getting infected for your own health, much less spreading it in the community, greatly outweigh the risks of the vaccines," said Epstein.

One of the biggest worries is the fact that all three COVID-19 vaccines currently out in the US are not fully approved by the FDA. Many believe that means the vaccine is experimental, but Epstein said people are underestimating just how much work was put into this process.

"There were tens of thousands of folks that were studied way back when, over a year ago, about the vaccine. There is ample amount of data to show that it is safe and effective," he said.

"It wasn’t the usual process of a longer six months and longer ability to understand what happens over a long period of time," Epstein said. "We are very much on the cusp of meeting the usual kind of length of time in terms of the analysis of the FDA to get full approval."

There is also worry of the long term effects, people are wondering what will happen months or years after they are fully vaccinated.

"Certainly, I understand that some folks want to wait and see, but they may be underestimating the risk of getting infected by COVID and actually having long term repercussions. Unequivocally without a doubt the risk of COVID infection versus the risk of the vaccine, the risk of COVID infection is greater, so you have to think about it in that regard," said Epstein.

Epstein said there is really nothing to worry about for those who want to have children, and they don’t have to worry about their baby having side effects.

"There is no data that show women are more at risk or their pregnancy or their children are at risk subsequently from getting the vaccine. So they will do better in terms of raising a healthy child and having a successful pregnancy by preventing the infection from happening," he said.

The doctor said that while having the virus does give you immunity, it wears off after a few months.

"There is some early evidence that the strength of the immune response may start to wane after six to eight months,” Epstein said.

Now, healthcare leaders are recommending a booster shot for those who are vaccinated.

Epstein said the hesitancy is because of all the myths and misinformation being spread on social media. Facebook officials said they have removed 18 million pieces of content on Facebook and Instagram of inaccurate claims regarding the vaccine.