HOUSTON — COVID-19 vaccines may be less than two weeks away now in Texas, but vaccine expert Dr. Peter Hotez and other health experts worry a bigger problem lies ahead. The vaccine won't do any good if too many people choose not to get it.
"We need a really high acceptance rate," Hotez said. "We have a tough job ahead of us."
Here's why officials are concerned: The latest Gallup poll shows only 58% of Americans are willing to get a COVID-19 vaccine. It's better than a few months ago, but still not good enough.
"You have to get 75% of the population vaccinated in order to stop transmission of this virus," Hotez said. "If you only have half the people taking it you're not going to get there."
Hotez says rejecting the vaccine would drag the pandemic on longer. The problem is bigger in Texas, a state already hard hit by COVID-19 where misinformation is spreading rampantly.
Only 43% of Texas adults get a flu shot every year, according to the CDC. That's already a big warning sign.
"Texas is one of the epicenters of the anti-vax movement and that's going to slow down the acceptance of COVID-19 vaccines," Hotez said.
Just this week, anti-vax groups hung anti-COVID-19 vaccine signs off Texas highways, including in Houston. The anti-vax movement has energized and increased their efforts as more promising COVID-19 vaccine news has started to come out.
"This is terrible," Hotez said. "We're not going to achieve success in public health unless we can figure something out about all this."
Hotez says all health officials need to do a better job of communicating the importance of vaccines and shutting down misinformation in real-time.
There are side effects of the vaccine, mainly 24-36 hours of just feeling cruddy. But the data shows they're safe, effective and the best way to get us all back to normal, Hotez says.
"95% efficacy, so they work, and they're going to induce viral antibodies that will keep you out of the hospital and the ICU and will save your life," Hotez said.