Savannah doctor who participated in vaccine trials encourages others to take vaccine when it’s available

Local News

SAVANNAH, Ga. (WSAV) – Dr. Ben Watson believes in a COVID-19 vaccine, so much so, he took part in the Moderna vaccine trials these past months.

“I got into the study and I got a shot 11 weeks ago today,” he told News 3.

Watson says that was his second shot, and while trial participants had a chance of getting a placebo or the real vaccine, he’s pretty sure he got the real thing.

“I was really sore at the site of the injection, and that’s probably what’s described as an antibody-antigen reaction,” Watson said. “So I’m pretty sure I got the vaccine, and I’m doing fine.”

The doctor said he had some aches and pains for about 24 hours but nothing too serious.

His experience may be important in the broader context of selling the vaccine to the general population when doses become available sometime in 2021.

Tuesday, Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp and Dr. Kathleen Toomey, commissioner of the Georgia Public Health Department, outlined the plan to distribute vaccine in the state.

Toomey said they expect “several hundred thousand” doses initially, but those will be prioritized for the elderly in nursing homes and for front line health care workers.

She said as supplies increase, and can be made available to the average person, it is important to note that you need two shots (about three to four weeks apart) and that in some cases, like Watson’s, you may feel a little sick or achy.

Toomey and Kemp both said they will definitely take the vaccine when shots become available to them.

Watson says he understands some people may be hesitant to take the vaccine but believes it can save lives.

While he was in the Moderna trial, he also talked about the Pfizer vaccine which is already being distributed in the United Kingdom.

“These particular vaccines prevent not only lung infections and pneumonia, but they prevent the infection in the back of your throat,” he said. “So that’s why it’s about 94 to 95 percent effective.”

Despite objections to vaccines, Watson is hopeful that many in the general public will consider getting the vaccine when it becomes available to them.

“There is always some vaccine hesitancy, but I think if you look at the polls and when I talk to my patients — most of them are really anxious about getting the vaccine,” said Watson.

He is also confident that safety has not been compromised for speed, saying that last week, he was able to listen to a telephone briefing from national health experts, including Dr. Anthony Fauci, the county’s top infectious disease expert.

“But I will tell you, Dr. Fauci relayed that they have been working on this for the past 10 years to do this, in case something like this should happen, so they had been planning for this (vaccine to be developed quickly) and it is safe,” said Watson.

The doctor says with any vaccine, about two-thirds of the population agrees to take it.

“That other third who are hesitant, I think that’s probably going to turn out to be maybe more like five or 10 percent,” he said, “and when they see the rest of us who have gotten it and they don’t want to get COVID — I think they’ll come around and get it.”

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