‘I’m seeing it daily’: Walnut Ridge doctor responds to hesitancy surrounding COVID vaccine

‘I’m seeing it daily’: Walnut Ridge doctor responds to hesitancy surrounding COVID vaccine

WALNUT RIDGE, Ark. (KAIT) - One Region 8 doctor says she hears concerns from patients about the COVID vaccine daily. Even some of her most at-risk patients say they refuse to take the shot.

Reactions like this to the COVID vaccine isn’t uncommon. While a recent Kaiser Family Foundation study shows most Americans say they’ll get the vaccine if it was determined to be safe, the same study points out that a quarter of the public is hesitant to get the vaccine.

Of those who are likeliest to be the most resistant to receive the vaccine? Those who live in rural areas, much like Lawrence County.

For Dr. Shawn Peyton at the Lawrence County Family Clinic, she says she sees the hesitancy daily.

“It’ll be the ones that are at the most risk, my COPD patients, will come in and say ‘I’m not taking that vaccine, I’ve heard horrible things about it,’” Dr. Peyton said. “I’m like ‘no, let’s sit down and talk, let’s talk about the actual vaccine and safety data...’ We need to get back to normal, and the vaccine is the only thing that’s going to make a difference on that.”

She says it’s a matter of determining the risk.

“I always tell them, the risk of having COVID is, right now, [very high],” she said. “The risk of the vaccine is, I can’t even show you, it’s way down here on the floor.”

Even with the reported side effects of COVID-19, Dr. Peyton says to not let misinformation or isolated events scare you from taking the vaccine.

“We cannot sit there and tell somebody there’s no risk of the vaccine,” she said. “All we can do is just weigh the risks and benefits and make decisions of the data we have right now. Fortunately, the studies that we have right now, both the Pfizer and Moderna, the two vaccines that are out have been excellent... We really don’t see the flu shot even working anywhere near that well.”

Dr. Peyton says COVID-19 is personal for her. She had the virus in June. Some of her family members, including her mother, had it. Thankfully, Dr. Peyton and her family made it through to the other side of it.

But the doctor of over 20 years says with Arkansas now in Phase 1B, she wants to educate her patients on the importance of fighting the pandemic, including getting the vaccine.

“You’re doing it to protect your grandmother, your small children, the person that lives down the street that’s undergoing chemotherapy,” Dr. Peyton said. “If we don’t get 60 percent of the population immunized, we are not going to come through this any time soon.”

While the number of the herd immunity threshold -- the population percentage needed to be immunized for a disease -- varies, the importance of people getting vaccinated remains.

Dr. Peyton says that even with the data on the safety of the vaccine, there is still misinformation out there, something she hears from patients every day, with the most common sources coming from social media or “their neighbor.”

Josh Conlee, President at Lawrence Memorial Hospital, says they’ve had similar struggles.

“Facebook and social media are not the best sources of information out there,” he said. “Go to the sources that can provide you with accurate information... I think, after overcoming some of the hesitancy, you’ll find the vaccine is safe, effective, and will be very effective in our communities in stopping the spread.”

Dr. Peyton adds that she has already taken the vaccine and didn’t feel any side effects.

“If I feel like I would recommend it for myself and my family, I think that’s a strong recommendation for [my patients].”

For more information about COVID-19, including the COVID Vaccination plan in Arkansas, check out the ADH website.

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