ATLANTA — As COVID-19 vaccine trials continue here in Georgia and around the world, the state vaccine task force has been making plans to distribute the vaccine whenever it’s ready.
But task force leaders are up against some skepticism from Georgians that they will have to take on directly.
Channel 2 Action News has been reporting on the advances and setbacks in these developmental phases, which are happening quickly.
That’s why some people, especially in minority communities, have a few doubts about the safety of a vaccine when it comes out.
Channel 2′s Matt Johnson spoke with the task force and community leaders about the vaccine plans.
“We have to have this plan ready to roll,” Georgia Insurance Commissioner John King said.
King is the man in charge of Georgia’s vaccine task force. His job is to have Georgia ready to distribute a COVID-19 vaccine.
“This is about a vaccine that Georgia desperately needs to get back on their feet,” he said.
The Center for Disease Control and Prevention is asking states to prepare for the possibility of having vaccine distributions centers ready to operate as early as November.
King said one challenge is making sure they’re able to adjust the plan as new hot spots pop up.
“When the the vaccines are initially rolled out, there’s going to be small amounts. And so this is our opportunity to get the vaccines to the right places across the state,” he said.
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Vaccines can take a decade to develop, but the White House’s “Operation Warp Speed” hopes to deliver 300 million doses of the coronavirus vaccine by Jan. 2021.
King said he knows there needs to be outreach toward people skeptical of a fast-tracked vaccine.
“They are not going to rush something that is not safe,” he said.
“I myself know that I would not be apt to take it,” Yolanda Darnell said.
Darnell told Johnson she has lost two friends to COVID-19. But she said she would rather quarantine for another year than take a vaccine developed so quickly.
“I’m not a person who’s against vaccines. It’s just I feel like there’s just not enough research done to say that November is good for a real vaccine,” Darnell said.
Some medical experts said that the November target date from the CDC is unrealistic.
“It may be November, but I personally doubt that we will have a vaccine proven to be effective,” said Jose Cordero, an epidemiology professor at the University of Georgia who spent 27 years with the CDC.
“I would say two to three years likely to get everyone vaccinated,” he said.
Vaccine skepticism is highest among minority groups, and Cordero said the partnerships with community leaders is what’s worked in the past.
“Often, what’s needed is who brings the message. And it would be that the message comes from a trusted member of the community,” he said. “Communities of faith are very, very important and very trusted.”
But some faith leaders said that message is harder to deliver while people are more polarized.
“I don’t see your pastors running to do it,” Pastor Jamal Harrison Bryant told Johnson.
The New Birth Missionary Baptist Church pastor said assurances about the vaccine’s safety will be a tough sell among pastors.
“There has always been a domestic violence relationship between African Americans in the medical community dating back to the Tuskegee experiment,” Bryant said.
For King, he said he has put politics aside and hopes that when a vaccine is ready, Georgians will trust the ones on the front lines.
“I trust these medical professionals to looking out for the best interests of our of our state,” King said.