Local News

COVID-19 vaccine sign hanging over I-40 in Durham worries doctors

Posted November 30, 2020 5:42 a.m. EST
Updated November 30, 2020 1:13 p.m. EST

— Local doctors are concerned a sign hanging over Interstate 40 in Durham will create fear over the coronavirus vaccine.

The first doses of the vaccine could be distributed to health care workers and vulnerable populations in the United States in less than two weeks. Experts say the vaccine could be widely available by the spring.

This sign, posted on the pedestrian bridge on Fayetteville Road over I-40, reads, "COVID-19 vaccine makers are exempt from liability." It is not clear who was responsible for hanging it.

Dr. David Wohl, an infectious disease specialist at UNC Health, said it's true that drug makers are protected from liability of any potential injuries caused by their vaccines.

"If we find out three years from now that it turns your hair purple, you are not going to be able to sue Pfizer or Moderna because you now have purple hair," Wohl said. "That can't happen."

Wohl said he is concerned the sign could cause fear in people who are skeptical to get the vaccine.

"This is all done in somewhat good faith -- that these companies are moving forward, taking some chances and taking some risks," he said.

Other local doctors agree we should trust the vaccine.

Dr. Susanna Naggie, a clinical research expert at Duke University School of Medicine, stressed that FDA regulators are not cutting corners to try to make the vaccine available more quickly. She said she's confident their review will be thorough and complete, and that any vaccine approved through an Emergency Use Authorization will be safe.

"We’re not used to this process where things may be approved on a much more rapid timeline," Naggie said. "I think it is absolutely necessary because we do need to get these vaccines out to people as soon as we are confident that we have the appropriate safety."

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