TULSA, Okla. — The City of Tulsa held a news conference on Friday to allow local hospital leaders and health experts to answer common questions about COVID-19.
The virtual news conference came as virus cases and hospitalizations climb in the area due primarily to the unvaccinated population.
"This has become a pandemic of the unvaccinated," Ascension St. John CEO Jeff Nowlin said Friday.
Dr. Anuj Malik, Ascension St. John Infectious Disease Medical Director, began the medical discussion by addressing several commonly heard reasons the unvaccinated population has chosen to stay that way.
"'I'm waiting to see if there are going to be side effects long-term, the vaccine has been out for too short of a period of time, and it was developed really fast,'" Malik says is the most common answer he hears when he's asked patients why they don't get the vaccine.
"At least 600-700 million doses have been given over the last 8-9 months," Malik says.
"If any major side effects were to occur, we would have seen them."
Malik says the vaccines used in the U.S., primarily Pfizer and Moderna, have been 85-90 percent effective in preventing infection and even more effective in preventing people from getting hospitalized or dying.
He says one day this week he had 21 patients in the ICU, 20 of which were unvaccinated and one who had only received one dose.
"What I'm trying to get at is the vast majority of individuals who are hospitalized are unvaccinated," Malik says.
"Vaccinated people can get the infection but they don't get very ill because the immune system is able to stop the virus."
Malik went on to address the concerns about the vaccines being developed "too fast."
"The only reason it developed fast was because there was a sense of urgency in all of the pharma companies, and basically they stopped all of their other projects to focus on one project," he says.
He credited the government during the Trump administration's Operation Warp Speed for providing the funding to take mRNA knowledge that the scientific community already had and using it to develop the vaccines as fast as they did.
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