City of Charleston, MUSC say return to normalcy is possible with COVID-19 vaccines

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CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCBD) – City of Charleston and MUSC leaders are encouraging everyone to get vaccinated against COVID-19 and addressing vaccine hesitancy.

Monday, Mayor John Tecklenburg, three MUSC doctors, and an MUSC student, all of whom are fully vaccinated, went maskless at a news conference for the first time since the pandemic began. This was an effort to show people what they have to look forward to once completing the vaccination process.

Dr. David Cole, the president of MUSC, says in order to bring the pandemic to a close, herd immunity must be reached. That means at least 80% of the population must be fully vaccinated. As it stands now, around 50% of people in the Charleston community have received at least one dose.

This comes as vaccine supply is at an all-time high, but demand is on a downward trend.

“I think the big picture…there’s more vaccine than demand and that’s a frustrating but great place to be,” said Dr. Cole.

Vaccine hesitancy plays a role in the lower demand.

“People overcoming hesitancy is equally about public messaging but also about talking to people you trust,” he said.

MUSC doctors and students are working to build that trust by sharing their personal stories and why they chose to get vaccinated with the community.

“I saw mothers afraid to hug their children,” said Chad Richardson, a third-year medical student at MUSC. “I saw grandmothers go for a year without being able to see their family.”

An infectious disease physician at MUSC, Dr. Ruth Adekunle, says for her, getting vaccinated is personal.

“Being vaccinated and my family being vaccinated has allowed my grandparents to be able to see my daughter for only the second time in her life,” she explained.

Richardson and his classmates are doing community outreach to educate people about the COVID-19 vaccine.

“As [for] myself, me and my classmates are going out and educating members in the community about how we can become vaccinated. We’ve launched a social media campaign putting out videos to dispel myths about COVID-19 and the vaccine. And we encourage people to make sure that they are fully educated through all of the resources that we have at MUSC and the CDC about coming vaccinated,” said Richardson.

Dr. Cole is confident that the Lowcountry will reach herd immunity, though he is not sure when.

“I’m always a cup-half full person. I believe we’ll reach our goal.”

For more information about the COVID-19 vaccine, click here.

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