New COVID-19 strains and case surges could result from vaccine hesitancy, Tampa Bay doctors say

Coronavirus

TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) – The vaccination site at the Tampa Greyhound track started offering first doses of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine again on Tuesday. But fewer people filed into the site during the early morning hours than in during previous months.

Tampa Bay area doctors told 8 On Your Side they’re bracing for a dip in the number of Floridians showing up to receive the shots, even though the vaccine is now available to everyone 16 and older.

“Younger people are more reluctant to get the vaccine,” Tampa General Hospital’s Chief Medical Officer Dr. Peggy Duggan said.

She explained that, unless 70% to 75% of Americans receive the vaccination, the country will likely see case surges and new strains of COVID-19.

“If we allow the disease to keep progressing, it is natural for the virus to mutate. So we want to stop it from having the capacity to grow and be anywhere in order to stop it from mutating,” Dr. Duggan explained.

According to Duggan, the group most reluctant about the vaccination are women who are pregnant, breastfeeding or worried about the shot’s effect on fertility. The doctor said the vaccine appears to be safe for all women in those categories.

She added that others are hesitant because of misinformation about the seemingly quick development of the vaccine or other aspects.

“Lots of young people aren’t getting vaccinated because they think it’s not their turn or someone else deserves this more — that the elderly need it,” said Dr. Duggan.

According to the doctor, that thought process could cause the virus to linger in our communities.

“We’re here to help each other and getting vaccinated is really going to help each other through the pandemic,” explained Duggan.

One-third of Americans, almost 84 million adults, had been fully vaccinated as of Monday.

The TGH leader said if a steady vaccination rate continues, families could notice pre-pandemic lifestyle returning in September. She predicted vaccine hesitancy could delay that timeline by more than a year.

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