UNC Health experts encourage vaccinations as COVID variants emerge

CHAPEL HILL, N.C. (WTVD) -- It's a race against time to get people vaccinated, according to a top UNC Health expert. Spreading variants of COVID-19 have Dr. David Wohl very concerned.

"It's really worrisome," said Dr. Wohl, who is an infectious diseases specialist who's been at the forefront of the fight against the virus.

"Am I being glass half-full or half-empty or am I being pessimistic? I really am very worried," he said.

Dr. Wohl said as opposed to last year, we have tools to use: including masks, distancing and vaccines.

"Variants don't make a difference if they don't get transmitted and they're a dead-end," he said.

According to the NCDHHS, 1.3 million people have been fully-vaccinated against the novel coronavirus.

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A recent study from the CDC analyzed the first 13.7 million people who have received their COVID-19 vaccine in the U.S. -- out of that group, 79% of people reporting side effects were women.

Dr. Wohl said that number needs to increase. Keisha Brown, a nurse manager at UNC Medical Center, agrees.

"It's been a hard year and there have been a lot of changes, a lot of adjustments," said Brown.

Normally, she's in charge of the pulmonary and infectious diseases unit where she oversees 70 employees and 30 patients.

Since last March, it's become the acute care unit for COVID-19 patients.

Brown was one of the first people to get vaccinated back in December.

"I think more of us need to go ahead and consider actually receiving the vaccine," she said. "This vaccine is a little bit of light at the end of the tunnel, a sign of hope and it gives us back a little bit of what we've lost in this last year. I'd rather suffer the side effects of the vaccine than suffer the effects of COVID."

Dr. Wohl said the vaccines are highly effective and it appears at this point they not only protect you from getting the virus but also sheds it.
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