PORTLAND, Or. — The vaccine roll out is on, and doctors and nurses are lining up for the shot.
But, not all health care workers are on board. Heart surgeon Dr. Stephen Noble is one of them.
“I choose, for my family and I, to wait to get the vaccine,” said physician and cardiothoracic surgeon Dr. Noble.
His decision has been months in the making.
“I listened to the CDC, the FDA, I sat in on those virtual conferences this year about it,” he said.
Yet, his lingering questions outweighed any answers he could find.
“We don't know what, how this vaccine is going to affect us,” said Dr. Noble.
He worries data from some trials may not be complete.
“The trial in and of itself was supposed to be a two-year trial. There's the experience of being a researcher, spending time in the lab, you understand that there is what we do in the lab, or in the trial, in the study, and what we do in real life,” said Dr. Noble.
Despite Dr. Noble’s concerns, Moderna’s trial showed its vaccine was 94 percent effective and Pfizer’s vaccine was 95 percent effective in preventing COVID-19.
Dr. Anthony Fauci received the Moderna vaccine himself. He told Americans the protection from the shot could be life-saving for millions.
For Dr. Noble, he believes there’s no way to tell now if the vaccine rollout will be as successful as the trials.
“When you have a trial, everything is so controlled: getting the shot on day zero, then getting another shot on day 21," he explained. "But in real life, it's very difficult for everyone to come in on that specific time at a specific date.”
He believes if the majority of the country isn’t vaccinated properly, it isn’t worth taking the risk.
“What America is dealing with right now is working the bugs out of vaccine distribution, and if we can't deliver the vaccine in the same exact way that the trial was done, you know, are we doing good medicine?”
Other health care professionals have similar questions. A recent study by the Kaiser Family Foundation found 29 percent of front-line healthcare workers were not getting the vaccine right away, two percentage points higher than the general public.
The main concerns were possible side effects, the speed of the vaccine becoming available, and distrust in vaccines and the healthcare system.
“The hesitancy isn't in the vaccine or isn't in the drug or isn't in this device, but it's the system in which this vaccine was created. It's a system that has perpetuated health care disparities, racial discrimination, and all these other things. And so now, at this eleventh hour, as we're in over-time to ask the community to trust, and it can be difficult," Dr. Noble said.
Dr. Noble says trust is a big factor in getting communities of color to take the vaccine, especially when many of the trials involved more white participants.
“There's questions or concerns in regard to representation within the studies. You know, these studies are done in a demographic, that you know the demographic that is really hurting the most, we're not seen represented in the science.”
Still, the doctor says he believes the vaccine will work, even if he needs more data to accept the science.
“I've never been in doubt of the vaccine working, but because they work in the lab doesn't mean they're going to work the same way in real life. And so to that point, going forward we need to do the things that we know work: masking up, hand hygiene, and social distancing," he stressed.
He hopes each member of the community will make their choice to get vaccinated based on their own health, remembering that even with the shot, COVID-19 is still a threat.