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NDSU infectious disease expert sits down to discuss COVID-19 vaccine arrival

One of North Dakota's top public health experts sits down with WDAY News Reporter Kevin Wallevand to talk about weighing the "risk-benefit" of taking the vaccine.

FARGO — Infectious disease expert and public health leader in North Dakota Dr. Paul Carson makes one thing clear about the newly released vaccine.

"To have a vaccine that was 95% effective puts it in the pantheon of our best vaccines, so I feel very good about that," Carson said.

And it's showing. In North Dakota, the numbers are going down. And we need to do that in the foreseeable weeks and months, so that we get to where we have enough of a vaccinated population that we can finally start to think about returning to normal.

Because so much research could be pulled from research on similar virus strains, Carson says that as well as technology were the reasons the vaccine was produced so quickly. Also, with so many people so sick so fast, getting the vaccine to clinical trials went at a swift pace.

Watch the complete interview with Dr. Paul Carson:


But just because a vaccine is now in hand, and our numbers are dropping, is no reason to think we have a green light to normalcy.

"It's going to be when we have enough of the population immunized, where we see transmission go way down, and that's probably not going to happen until we see 70% to 75% of the population immunized," Carson said. "That gives us theoretically herd immunity."

While many of us will have to wait to get access to the vaccine, we can't let our exuberance for the vaccine turn into an excuse to be reckless.

"The virus will continue to keep marching through the population. It's a very contagious virus, and we can count in it to continue to march thru the population until we've all had it," Carson said. "That will mean many, many more hospitalizations and many more deaths. Whether it's in a compact amount of time or stretched out amount of time it will continue to march through and harm our loved ones, friends and families."

Carson says while it is good to have the conversation about the risk-benefits of the vaccine, the fact we are just now noticing long term impacts of the illness is yet another reason to take it.

"There's no other way for us to get out of this epidemic without it," Carson explained. "No serious infectious disease in the world has been stopped by natural herd immunity. You might not have exponential growth, it might slow down, but it will continue to infect people. The only way we get herd immunity is through vaccination, that's the only thing that's ever done it."


On Wednesday, Dec. 16, at 6 p.m. Kevin Wallevand talks with a local family that's been waiting for this vaccine news for months. It has been too risky for them to leave the house.

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