COVID-19 survivor from Chesapeake still hesitant about vaccine; local doctors address concerns

Posted at 4:48 PM, Dec 22, 2020

CHESAPEAKE, Va. – At the beginning of the pandemic, Leroy Ellsworth spent several days in the hospital fighting for his life. Today, he says he feels better than ever.

"I'm feeling good. I'm feeling really good,” said Ellsworth.

He doesn’t feel the same way when it comes to taking the vaccine.

"A lot of people are, but I’m not,” he adds.

He isn't the only one who is hesitant. That's why local organization Celebrate Healthcare hosted a COVID-19 vaccine "Facts vs. Fiction" webinar to address the community's concerns - starting with the development of the vaccine.

"To produce something that fast where we've had viruses and diseases and things that have been around for years and there is still no vaccine for it..." Ellsworth says as he questions the time it took to create the vaccine.

Dr. Michael Charles with Sentara says what sped up the process is the removal of "red taping."

"It just takes time to go through the government bureaucracy. Well, that was removed; the FDA gave it an emergency approval because of the situation we are in right now,” said Dr. Charles.

Ellsworth says he’s still uncertain about the vaccine. Charles wants the community to know thatthe two FDA-approved vaccines are very effective.

"Ninety-five percent effective for a vaccine is unheard of. A flu vaccine is like 60%,” he adds.

Ellsworth says he's also reluctant because he's not clear on what is in the vaccine.

"It uses a genetic code from a portion of the virus to stimulate our antibody production,” explained Dr. Charles.

Ellsworth says there is a lot of it is misconception, misinformation and lack of trust.

Health leaders agree. Iris Lundy with Sentara says, "I think we need to acknowledge that we have not always done right by our communities of color. From a medical standpoint, we need to acknowledge that pain and hurt."

Related: Descendant of the infamous syphilis study weighs in on COVID-19 vaccine

In order to move forward, infectious disease expert Dr. Anthony Baffoe-Bonnie says the more they can educate the public, the better.

"We need about 70% of people in the community or in the U.S. vaccinated to get to that herd immunity, which will protect all of us,” adds Dr. Baffoe-Bonnie.

Even though Ellsworth doesn't plan on taking the vaccine, he's optimistic.

"I hope it works. I hope that more people are feeling better."

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