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Dr. David Hicks: Myths about vaccines should not scare those who have most to gain 

By David Hicks, D.O.
Jefferson County Department of Health

There are several public health tools (e.g. social distancing, good hand hygiene, cough etiquette, wearing facial covering/masks, isolation/quarantine, contact tracing, vaccination) that we recommend that are proven to help decrease the spread of COVID-19.  We need all of these to finally end this pandemic and are relying on the public to work with us as we continue this fight.

Anyone that has any of the following symptoms may have COVID-19 and should strongly consider being tested for COVID-19: fever, new loss of taste or smell, chills, cough, shortness of breath, fatigue, body aches, headache, sore throat, runny nose, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea.  Also, if you have been within six feet of someone with COVID-19 for at least 15 minutes, you should consider testing.  Please consult your medical provider if you have any questions or concerns.

To find out if you are currently infected with COVID-19, you will need to have a diagnostic test which is performed by swabbing inside of your nose.  Currently there are two types of diagnostic tests – PCR tests, that detect the virus’s genetic material, and antigen tests that detect specific proteins from the virus.  PCR tests are currently the most accurate, but may take a few days to get results back.  Antigen tests provide quick results, but are slightly less accurate.  You should talk to your healthcare provider to see which test is best for you.

Early in the pandemic, there were limited testing resources available.  The health department has worked with its partners to increase access to testing to meet current demand.  Testing locations now include: community drive-thru and pop-up clinics, private doctor’s offices, and urgent care centers.  There has been targeted testing in communities at increased risk and we have ensured that people have access to testing regardless of their financial situation.  You can go to our website at www.jcdh.org to find a listing of all community testing sites throughout the county.

Remember, if you test positive for COVID-19, you must remain at home until you complete your mandatory isolation period so that you don’t spread the virus to others.

We are now excited that safe and effective COVID-19 vaccines are being developed.  If enough people get vaccinated, we can end this pandemic.  Unfortunately, there are myths starting to circulate that have some people scared to get vaccinated.  This is particularly troubling for groups that are at highest risk for COVID-19 complications, but have the most to gain by getting the vaccine. 

We know that older adults and people with certain medical conditions (e.g. heart disease, obesity, diabetes, kidney disease, cancer, lung disease, sickle cell disease, weakened immune system, smokers) are at increased risk of severe illness due to COVID-19.  Additionally, racial and ethnic minorities are at higher risk due to long-standing social inequities as we see African Americans are twice more likely to die from COVID-19 as compared to whites. 

The Jefferson County Department of Health is making a concerted effort to address the fears, concerns, and myths regarding the COVID-19 vaccine so that all in Jefferson County benefit from it.  We hope that the community will continue to entrust us with their health and continue to listen and respond to public health and medical experts.

David Hicks, D.O, is Deputy Health Officer at Jefferson County Department of Health. 

For more visit www.jcdh.org.