Fauci, Local Experts Answer Vaccine Questions at Virtual Town Hall

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South Florida PBS and The Health Channel hosted a virtual town hall Wednesday night featuring prominent local experts and the nation’s leading COVID expert, Dr. Anthony Fauci. 

The very first question of the town hall was one we’ve all been wondering -- Is the new administration’s goal of 100 million shots in 100 days realistic, especially while so many people continue to struggle for appointments. 

“The most important thing is to get as many people vaccinated as quickly as we possibly can,” Fauci said.

Fauci said there will be challenges along the way, especially as we move to distribute the vaccine into the community. He says that is more logistically challenging than vaccinating in the hospitals and long-term care facilities. 

However, he says it can be done. 

“It’s an ambitious goal. It’s quite a reasonable goal, and I believe we will meet that goal,” Fauci said.

Another viewer asked what’s being done to address vaccine fears in communities of color. 

“What we are trying to do, as a health system, is to make sure we are in contact with community leaders, community centers, churches, barbershops, hairdressers, to try to educate everyone on the importance of getting vaccinated,” said Dr. Henri Ford, the dean of the University of Miami Leonard M. Miller School of Medicine.

“We know that if you are from the Black or brown community you are hit harder by this virus,” said Dr. Geeta Nayyer, a specialist in rheumatology and the executive medical director of Salesforce. “We have studied it in the Black and brown community, men and women, and we have found that it works.”

One viewer asked if everyone in hour household has been vaccinated, can you start to invite people over for dinner? 

The experts’ answer: no, not yet. 

They say vaccinated individuals can still spread the virus and there is still some risk given the community spread. On top of that, the virus has been mutating. 

“The South African variant is pretty scary. So we don't know to what extent, whether we will be protected from it, so it behooves us to continue to wear masks just in case we could be facing one of those varients where we are not protected,” said Dr. Ford.  

All the experts concluded with the same consensus. Expect to be wearing a mask for at least the rest of 2021. 

The town hall was produced by South Florida PBS' Health Channel and co-hosted by Dr. Michael Zinner, CEO and executive medical director of the Miami Cancer Institute, and Health Channel host Olga Villaverde.

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