State health officials, hospitals working to increase public trust in COVID-19 vaccines

State - Regional

COLUMBIA, SC (WSPA) — A COVID-19 vaccine may not be available to the general public for a few more months, but in the meantime state health officials are working to increase public trust in the vaccine.

The South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC) said the state received about 43,000 doses of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine this week.

The South Carolina Hospital Association (SCHA) said as the state receives more and more COVID-19 vaccines they are doing everything they can to make sure people get factual information from their providers.

Schipp Ames Vice President of Communications, Education and Member Services said, “It’s been a very long year and now we have a light at the end of the tunnel.”

Surveys show most Americans are willing to get a vaccine but there are some who are hesitant. DHEC officials said they understand why some people feel that but add approved vaccines are effective and safe.

They said their doctors and immunization experts have taken part in community and faith-based organization meetings virtually to have, what they called, candid discussions about the COVID-19 vaccine.

Ames said the state Hospital Association is working closely with DHEC and other partners. “We’re about to see all the messaging to ‘wear a mask’, practice social distancing,’ and ‘get the vaccine’ become a very important part of that messaging.”

Vice President of Research at the University of South Carolina Dr. Prakah Nagarkatti said one of the many reasons people are hesitant in vaccines is because of possible side effects. He said minor side effects like a fever or fatigue shows the vaccine is working.

“It’s a good sign because your immune system is showing that it’s recognizing the encoded spike protein and you will have better immunity – more resistance,”” he said.

Dr. Nagarkatti said making sure the majority of the population gets vaccinated is a way to achieve herd immunity and potentially eradicate COVID-19 entirely.

Ames said he hopes with health care workers rolling up their sleeves right now, others will be ready when the time comes. “Hospitals are really doing their part to be as transparent as possible about the vaccine. Really demonstrating to everybody in the community that look — our health care leaders are getting the vaccine. They are the ones taking care of us, so let’s follow their lead and do the same.”

DHEC said they expect to receive up to 300,000 doses of a COVID-19 vaccine before the end of the year.

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