People Will Die Unnecessarily Without Clear Message About COVID Vaccines: Expert

Leading experts believe mixed messages about the vaccine are leaving Americans with the wrong impression about the lifesaving shots

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Infectious disease and vaccine expert Dr. Peter Hotez already received both doses of the Pfizer vaccine.

Hotez told NBC 7 he was honored to get the vaccine but had mixed emotions after reflecting on the 400,000 Americans who have lost their lives to COVID-19.

Since March, Hotez, who is the dean of the National School of Tropical Medicine and a professor of pediatrics and molecular virology and microbiology at Baylor College of Medicine, in Houston, has worked to bring a scientist's view of COVID-19 to the American public, spending hours being interviewed by the media and lecturing via Zoom

Now that the vaccine rollout is under way, Hotez is focused on the lack of messaging and miscommunication.

"There was never a plan to vaccinate the American people," Hotez said. "That now needs to be put in place. There was no communication strategy. It was left to the pharma CEOs, who are very inconsistent."

Hotez said tjhat research shows the COVID-19 vaccines are incredibly effective: Both Moderna and Pfizer's vaccine show upward of 94% effectiveness in preventing serious illness, which is an extremely positive result. If anything, the percentage of effectiveness is even higher, because it counts anyone who came down with a mild case of COVID-19 as a failure. 

"Their virus-neutralizing antibodies will save your life," Hotez said. "That's what's going to keep you out of the hospital. This is the most cost effective way we can save lives."

Still, some people remain concerned about getting the vaccine. Hotez said, especially among the Black population. He said taht there needs to be a clear message right now.

"Putting out a series of public service announcements -- PSAs -- and I think we are also going to need a system of regular communication from government scientists," Hotez said.

Hotez also strongly believes disinformation from anti-vaccine groups need to be addressed and suggested silencing any false information they put up on social media and online platforms.

"I think it's necessary to take it down, and these are private organizations -- it's not a First Amendment issue," Hotez said. "At least do this for awhile and give us a chance to vaccinate the American people."

Hotez said he hopes things change with a new administration.

"What I am hoping to see is a comprehensive plan and intervention from the federal government, because what we had prior to that ... the states have to be in the lead and the federal government provides backup support," Hotez said. "This is our last chance. We have squandered every opportunity. If we don't vaccinate, and vaccinate quickly, the deaths will continue to rise."

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