Health officials defend efficacy as local lawmaker proposes bill that prohibits COVID-19 vaccine being forced on people

Local Coronavirus Coverage

KINGSPORT, Tenn. (WJHL) – A local lawmaker proposed a bill that would prohibit people being forced to take the COVID-19 vaccine, mainly due to safety concerns. Local health officials said though they understand the concerns, they assured the vaccine will be safe.

Tennessee State Representative Bud Hulsey (R – Kingsport) told News Channel 11’s Bianca Marais that he corresponded with multiple constituents about their concerns regarding the COVID-19 vaccine, and that is why he proposed the COVID-19 vaccine bill.

“There’s been several people over the last few months actually who have come to me talk to me, emailed me, called me on the phone and they have a concern that with the hastiness of this vaccine, that the government- state government or federal government, either one – will, through health departments or police agencies or an arm of the executive branch of government, will force them to take a vaccine that they’re not so sure they want right now,” Hulsey said. “I want to know some things about it, I want to know what’s in it, I want to know what it’s composed of, I want to know how it does what it does, and then I decide but I certainly do not want state government forcing me to take a medical procedure that I’m not sure about and don’t want right now.”

One local health expert said there really isn’t anything new about this vaccine process, other than the fact that it was expedited due to the urgency of the virus, and that it is just as safe as any other.

“Right now we’re waiting for the FDA approval. Once we get that, we’ll get what’s called the VIS information sheet, and that’s just the vaccine information sheet, you get that along with any vaccine that you get, so that’s not a new sheet that’s coming out, that’s always been done by the CDC and the FDA… once we get that information, we will have more information to give out to the community,” Courtney Price, RN and POD Branch Manager at the Sullivan County Regional Health Department said. “What the science is telling us is we have a 94 to 95% that it’s working, that the vaccine is working in the trials, so that’s what we have to go by, is the science.”

Ballad Health Physician Dr. Daniel Lewis was hospitalized in March 2020 while fighting COVID-19. He told News Channel 11’s Bianca Marais that he understands some of the concerns people have concerning the COVID-19 vaccine and explained why some concerns are unnecessary.

“This vaccine was developed much quicker than most that we’ve developed over time because of the urgency and because of the need. The vaccine itself does use a new kind of mechanism introducing the viral proteins to your body through mRNA. We’ve developed and are working towards mRNA vaccines for other conditions such as cancer and other things that have been under development for quite a while, so it’s not completely foreign to us, but this will be the first vaccine that utilizes that, here, so I understand people’s concerns about that,” Lewis explained.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention defines an mRNA vaccine as unlike typical vaccines that put a weakened or inactivated germ into the body. Alternatively, the mRNA vaccine teaches a body’s cells how to make a protein that triggers an immune response.

That immune response, which produces antibodies, is what protects us from getting infected if the real virus enters our bodies, the CDC reports.

“The data suggests that the vaccine is very effective in preventing COVID-19, and we can’t know everything in the short term about that but our body uses the mRNA molecules on a day-in and day-out basis to repair itself and to prepare for, so, and mRNA doesn’t enter your DNA or become part of your DNA, as I’ve heard some individuals say. I think it’s a relatively safe vaccine,” Lewis said.

Still, the efficacy of the new COVID-19 vaccines come into question. Dr. Lewis assured News Channel 11’s Bianca Marais that the proper steps were taken to ensure the safety of the vaccines.

“I would try to reassure folks that the companies have went through the same Phase 1, Phase 2, and Phase 3 clinical trials that are necessary,” he explained. “The Phase 3 trials have enrolled 30,000 to 50,000 individuals in each one that received the vaccine or placebo, in a large enough population that where we should see things and we don’t seem to be seeing significant side effects.”

Dr. Lewis added that he would take the COVID-19 vaccine as soon as it becomes available to him.

“I’ve told folks that I’ve had a significant case of COVID and suffered significantly from it, I feel confident that my immune system has a good response against COVID, I feel like it’s built up its natural tendency towards that. Having said that, the first chance I get to take the vaccine, I will receive the vaccine,” he said.

Dr. Lewis also spoke to the immunity of COVID-19 patients against contracting the virus again.

“We’re not seeing huge numbers of repeat COVID-19 infections in patients who have suffered it before, at least not documented this morning that I know of,” he explained. “Those numbers are less than 100 across the world, that I’m aware of, out of the 35-37 million documented cases at this point.”

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