Conversations about the COVID-19 vaccine encouraged to bring clarity, doctor says

During the pandemic, Arizonans are deciphering through the facts and misinformation of the vaccine and a Valley doctor is speaking about educating skeptical patients.

Dr. Natasha Bhuyan with One Medical in Phoenix says reaching herd immunity will take 70% of the population receiving the vaccine. She also said it'll take trust between primary care physicians and the public to make it happen.

Former Food and Drug Administration Commissioner, Dr. Scott Gotlieb, has gone on the record to say the vaccine supply could surpass the demand by April, expecting more than 250 million doses injected into the market by end of March.

However, Bhuyan says her patients are hesitant about getting vaccinated.

"Even among my patients, people have legitimate questions about these vaccines. The most common questions that I get are about, 'Are these vaccines safe and what are their side effects?'" Bhuyan said.

To answer, she says there are post-vaccine side effects like fever or fatigue, but they are short-lived and mild. She says it also means the immune system is working.

MORE: How to sign up and schedule a COVID-19 vaccine appointment

But still, Bhuyan believes as the general public becomes eligible for the vaccine there will be more skeptics.

"We know that there are people who are in these communities of color who are also skeptical about the vaccine because they've been historically marginalized by the healthcare system," Bhuyan said. 

That's where Valle del Sol comes in. It's a local nonprofit investing in outreach to communities of color, specifically using social media to educate the public on the myths versus reality regarding the vaccine.

Valle del Sol will hold virtual discussion panels in English and Spanish on Tuesday, Feb. 9.

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"We wanna build on that trust and we wanna make sure that community members know that they can come to Valle del Sol with their questions and make sure that they're getting correct information," said Erica Mach, spokeswoman for Valle del Sol.

Bhuyan says labeling those who don't want the vaccine as anti-vaxxers should be avoided and it's OK to have questions, as these conversations are crucial to help 75% of the population get vaccinated.

"I am actually worried if we have too much vaccine hesitancy we won't be able to reach herd immunity," Bhuyan said.

More information about the virtual panels can be found here.