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DIGGING DEEPER: Vaccine Fears

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TUCSON (KVOA) - This week, some Tucsonans will begin rolling up their sleeves to get Pfizer's COVID-19 vaccine, but one local doctor says she is worried about how quickly it was created.

"These vaccinations are our road back to a normal life - a safe life, where we are protected and our loved ones are protected," Arizona Governor Doug Ducey said recently at a briefing on COVID-19.

Those vaccinations that began arriving in Arizona and other states this week were created and are now being distributed in less than one year.  

It's all part of Operation Warp Speed - a fact that has one Tucson doctor concerned.

"The testing is also at warp speed, and there is just no way to test for rare or long-term chronic adverse effects without a certain amount of time passing," said Dr. Jane Orient, executive director of the Association of American Physicians and Surgeons.

Dr. Orient was a recent witness at a Senate Homeland Security Committee hearing on COVID-19 treatments, where she focused mainly on the use of hydroxychloroquine.

"I'm certainly not anti-vaccination, but I think with any medical treatment, there are adverse effects, and we try not to give medicines of any kind to people who don't need them," Dr. Orient told the Digging Deeper team.

The FDA says Pfizer's COVID-19 vaccine is safe, but Dr. Orient says unanswered questions remain, including any potential side-effects of the vaccine during pregnancy.

"Would it cause pregnant women to lose their babies? Would it cause infertility? We can only speculate based on some theoretical concerns, but we do not have data," Dr. Orient said.

Dr. Orient also says she is opposed to making the COVID-19 vaccine mandatory - something state health officials, along with Governor Ducey say is not going to happen.

"What we want to do is make sure we're communicating the facts to the people of Arizona, and much like masks, we want to see the maximum level of compliance," Gov. Ducey said.

Meanwhile, Pima County health officials are getting ready to immunize the two groups at highest risk, including healthcare workers and residents of long-term care.

Paul Birmingham

Paul Birmingham is an Investigative Producer for KVOA News 4 Tucson. He is a three time Edward R. Murrow award winner, native Tucsonan, and a proud Arizona Wildcat.

Alexis Berdine

Alexis Berdine is an Investigative Multi-Media Journalist at KVOA.

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