MILWAUKEE — As the first doses of the Covid-19 vaccines are administered around the world, most doctors and health officials are encouraging anyone who is offered vaccination to take advantage of the opportunity, signaling that the vaccine could be a major step towards a "return to normal" in 2021.
But, a recent poll by the Associated Press showed that only about half of Americans are ready to roll up their sleeves and receive a new vaccine. About 1/4 of people say they won't be vaccinated and another 1/4 are still unsure if they'll receive the vaccine.
So we are going 360, speaking with a Wisconsin healthcare worker who will likely be among the first to be offered a COVID-19 vaccine. She recently fell ill with COVID-19 and says she believes the benefits of vaccination outweigh the risks.
We also spoke with a leader in Wisconsin's Vaccine Choice Movement. She says she won't get the vaccine.
There are also many of Wisconsin's top health officials are assuring the public that no corners have been cut in the development or approval of COVID-19 Vaccines.
TMJ4 News also spoke to a doctor with UW-Health who has a reminder for the general public as vaccines are rolled out worldwide.
We'll start with Melody Socha, an acute nurse practitioner who says she has COVID-19 in November 2020.
She has since returned to work on the front line, inside a local hospital. She says that despite unknowns about potential long-term side effects, she trusts the scientists who are developing the vaccines.
"I think the benefits, at this point, outweighs the risks and looking at the research and the trials that have been done, it seems that the side effects, the long term side effects are not known, but the mild side effects, just like other side effects like the flu vaccine, there’s always mild side effects but seeing COVID patients and treating COVID patients and knowing what can happen with this illness, I think the benefits for those people who are high risk right now probably outweighs potential risks," said Socha.
Others, like Jenna Ihlenfeldt, say the fact that the vaccine was developed so quickly is what leaders them hesitant.
Ihlenfeldt says she likely would hold off on receiving a vaccine for now.
"I’m not against taking a vaccine against it; obviously, I just think I’d like to educate myself more about what went into this vaccine and how they came up with it so quickly," said Ihlendeldt.
Taking a strong stance, Tami Goldstein, the founder of Wisconsin For Vaccine Choice.
Goldstein says she will not get the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine.
For the past two decades, she has done her own research and shared warnings about what she says is a lack of transparency regarding research and development of vaccines.
"I am not an anti-vaxxer. I vaccinated my children. I believe in the concept of vaccination," said Goldstein.
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She has concerns about companies developing and then researching their own products. She worries that companies like Pfizer are not held liable for the vaccines they produce if something goes wrong.
Tami warns of potential long-term impacts of these new vaccines, especially in pregnant women, children and those who have immune systems that are compromised.
Those potential side effects, if they exist, are still unknown.
One of the biggest concerns, for Goldstein, is a future where vaccines are mandatory.
TMJ4's Ryan Jenkins asked Goldstein what it would take for her to be comfortable receiving the vaccine.
"We want informed consent. I want the vaccine producer to be held accountable for the products that they're producer and make billions of monies on. I want someone other than those profiting from the vaccines doing the studies and those studies should be gold standard double-blind long-term study with complete informed consent to the client, to the patient," she said.
Wisconsin's top health officials say the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) scrutinizes data and research provided by companies, like Pfizer, before approving vaccines.
"So, the clinical trials where we enrolled 30,000 people and carefully administered in a blinded placebo-controlled fashion and then followed up and got the data, the outcomes data, that was not rushed. That was done by the same standards as all clinical trials, methods are posted on "clinical trials dot gov." It's been in a transparent process. So, we should feel good that the data generated in those trials are reliable," said Dr. Ryan Westergaard, Chief Medical Officer for Wisconsin Department of Health Services.
He and several other top health officials in Wisconsin, along with leaders such as Governor Tony Evers, have said they'll get the shot when it's offered. But even with vaccines now being administered, the return to normal won't be quick.
There are more than 400,000 Wisconsin health care workers and another 300,000 people in long-term care facilities that are set to receive vaccines first.
It's still unknown when vaccines will be available to the general public, which is why Doctors at UW-Health say it's not a time to let your guard down.
"Recognizing that it's going to be several months still before this is going to be more broadly available for the public and I think the understanding of that is key anytime when we're talking about the vaccine," said Dr. Matt Anderson.
Doctors continue to urge everyone to wear masks, stay socially distanced and practice good hand hygiene as a precaution as we wait for doses of the vaccine to be made available to the general public.