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Long Island health commissioners tout COVID-19 vaccine safety

County health commissioners answer questions about vaccine hesitancy

County health commissioners answer questions about vaccine hesitancy in this in-depth discussion.

Worried about getting a COVID-19 vaccine?

Two Long Island health commissioners speaking Friday on the latest Newsday Live webinar, titled "The Conversation Around Vaccine Hesitancy," said you shouldn't be.

"Some people, no matter what you say or do, they're not going to change their minds," Nassau County Health Commissioner Dr. Lawrence E. Eisenstein said, adding that for many it's false information spread via the internet that has caused them to hesitate about getting vaccinated.

"But, where there's an opportunity to educate, where there's an opportunity to dispel a myth, it's worth the effort … It is on us now to go to people who are on the fence; it's our responsibility," Eisenstein said.

As Suffolk County Health Commissioner Dr. Gregson H. Pigott said: "It's not about you, it's about protecting the ones you love."

Yes, the experts said, there have been rare cases of blood clots in women associated with the one-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine. But, Eisenstein and Pigott said, those cases have been incredibly rare — perhaps just one in 1 million doses — and the cause was quickly diagnosed, meaning it can now be treated. The two commissioners added that although hundreds of millions of vaccine doses have been administered in the United States and worldwide, there is no evidence the vaccine can alter genetics or change the nucleus of your cells.

In fact, the commissioners said, the only certain evidence is that getting vaccinated will help prevent your death from COVID-19.

"I can't think of a greater reason to get vaccinated," Eisenstein said.

According to the latest statistics available from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 154 million people have received at least a single vaccination dose in the United States, while 118,987,308 have been fully vaccinated. Worldwide, the World Health Organization said, more than 1.37 billion doses have been administered. On Long Island, more than 1.5 million people have received at least one dose — with more than 1.2 million completely vaccinated.

Still, the two commissioners said, there's much work to be done.

Pigott said that despite the internet rumors, there's been "no evidence" of the vaccines having a detrimental effect on fertility or negative effects on pregnancies and, he said, "The risk of getting COVID while pregnant is worse than getting vaccinated while pregnant" — which is why expectant mothers should protect themselves.

And, citing his own vaccine experience, which saw him develop what he called "a full-blown fever" and chills following his second dose of the Moderna vaccine, Pigott said: "That immune reaction I got was actually my body doing the right thing … it might be uncomfortable for a day or two, but that's a good thing."

As Eisenstein said: "Vaccine hesitancy is a public health issue everywhere … but it is the virus that is the true danger here, so it is protecting yourself against the virus that is the best choice."

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