SOUTHERN COLORADO (KRDO) -- According to the Journal of the American Medical Association, 56% of Americans want to get the Covid-19 vaccine. That's a significant drop since the first survey was done in the Spring of 2020.
The findings were published in a December 2020 article after questioning 9,000 adults online. Of those surveyed in April 2020, 74% said they were likely to get the COVID-19 vaccine when it was available to the public. However, by late November to early December 2020, that number had dropped to 56%.
In hopes of gaining a better understanding, KRDO hosted a COVID-19 Vaccine Roundtable with four people from southern Colorado who might represent those opinions.
The roundtable included two people who support the vaccine, a man and a woman, and two people who are skeptical and not planning on getting the vaccine anytime soon, another man and woman.
Rob Allen, who works in law enforcement, now has both doses of the COVID-19 vaccine. He was motivated to roll up his sleeve after mourning the loss of a friend who died from the virus.
"He was the deputy," said Allen. "That kind of -- whoa -- if it could happen to him, maybe it could happen to me."
"I'm relatively healthy. I'm relatively active. It's a precaution. I don't mind being a testbed," said Allen.
Neva Martinez Ortega also has a personal reason to get the vaccine. Her mother, activist Rita Martinez, died from COVID-19 in December. "Just a few days before the vaccines arrived in Pueblo," said Martinez Ortega.
"Everything turned very, very quickly," said Martinez Ortega. "We all thought that she was doing well. Having been through COVID, I know what that was like -- I personally don't have a huge fear of getting sick from the vaccine. My fear is more spreading COVID to other people."
That being said, distrust for the medical community runs deep in many minority groups -- take, for instance, the infamous Tuskegee Study, where Black men were unknowingly subjects of a decades-long study into untreated syphilis, conducted by the U.S. Public Health Service.
Martinez Ortega acknowledges the struggle.
"I understand the mistrust for the vaccine -- but I know what life is like with COVID -- and this vaccine is the only way out right now," said Martinez Ortega.
Adding to the tension: minority groups in America on average are twice as likely to die of COVID-19, according to the CDC, due to crowded conditions and close living space.
"That really hurts me not only to see fellow Americans dying, but my people dying. But it's something that I feel that I have to do," said Martinez Ortega.
Linda Baker wants more testing and time to elapse before she's comfortable getting the vaccine.
"I will take the little bit of isolation and sit with it. They don't even know how long this medication is going to hold up," countered Baker.
Like many, she's skeptical that a vaccine could have been developed this quickly.
"I don't trust something that you have to keep at 30-below zero. If someone doesn't categorize it right, doesn't time it right, is it going to be a viable vaccine?" Baker said.
Don Currier doesn't want the vaccine either. Several years ago, he developed Guillain-Barre syndrome after receiving a flu shot. A person's immune system attacks the nervous system with the condition.
Because of that, he's leery of aggravating his symptoms and hasn't gotten a flu shot since.
"I want to make sure they have more testing on it," said Currier. "I'm at the age where I should probably get it, but I'm going to wait."
KRDO took many of these questions to Dr. Meaghan Misiasz, who specializes in allergy and immunology at UCHealth.
"We have a very efficacious vaccine. It's working. It's preventing many people from getting sick with Covid," said Dr. Misiasz. "The vaccine development has really been a collaboration of research from scientists, medical experts, that -- thus far -- has been unseen in our society. The mRNA platform, although it seems brand new, it's really been in development for well over a decade. Covid just happened -- fortunately -- to be a virus that it would work for."
So, just how does that mRNA technology work?
"mRNA does not become DNA -- it does not go backwards, if you will. DNA can create RNA. RNA can create a protein. The RNA is not going to be inserted into the genome, or become part of our DNA. You get the vaccination. The RNA goes into the cell. Within the cell, the cell creates a protein. This protein is produced and the body sees it and says, 'This protein's not us,' and it creates antibodies that remember that protein. So, when the virus comes in and has that protein on it. Those antibodies say: 'That guy. He's no good,' and they attack it. And that prevents you from getting Covid."
Dr. Misiasz admits: scientists don't know how long the vaccine will protect people, but it has -- thus far -- proven effective at working against the new variants.
"There don't seem to be any long-term effects of the COVID vaccine -- we don't have the data yet of years and years out from getting the vaccine, however," said Dr. Misiasz. "My concern would be if while you're waiting to get the vaccine, you get COVID-19, which we know could be so detrimental and have long-term side effects and make people so very ill. I don't think the wait is worth the risk of getting the vaccine."
Typically, Phase 3 vaccine trials employ anywhere from 3,000 to 6,000 volunteers. Pfizer-BioNTech enlisted the help of 43,661 volunteers; Moderna, 30,000 volunteers.
Pfizer-BioNTech was shown to have a 95% efficacy rate; Moderna was shown to have a 94.1% efficacy rate.
The Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System (VAERS) tracks vaccine reactions from the CDC and FDA. It lists 370 deaths after receiving the Covid-19 vaccine; those deaths, however, don't mean the adverse event was caused by the vaccine -- but that death occurred after receiving it.
"People can get hives from both an allergic reaction as well as an immune response. You can also get hives over the injection site. That's the immune cells coming to the injection site -- and really doing their job," said Dr. Misiasz.
According to the CDC, there have been rare instances of anaphylaxis: "2.5 anaphylaxis cases per million first Moderna COVID-19 vaccine doses administered. No one died from anaphylaxis after receiving the Moderna vaccine. For the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, initial anaphylaxis rates after the first dose were 11.1 cases per million."
However, Dr. Misiasz says not everyone should get the COVID-19 vaccine: those who have allergies to polyethylene glycol or to polysorbates, which are common components of laxatives. If a patient is on chemotherapy or other immuno- suppressants, the vaccine may not be as effective -- although that data is not complete yet.
Since the COVID vaccines were not tested on expectant mothers, the CDC says getting the vaccine for pregnant women is a personal choice.
Experts estimate that between 70%-90% of the population needs to be vaccinated in order to reach herd immunity.