As the U.S. gears up to begin distributing COVID-19 vaccines upon approval expected later this week, a Virginia health official is asking people to be patient and wary of misinformation.
“Anytime something like this happens, there’s going to be social media conspiracy pages,” said Dr. David Goodfriend, director of the Loudoun County Health Department. “You will hear things about vaccine and vaccine side effects that are just not based in reality but are part of social media misinformation.”
For information about vaccines, Goodfriend said you should trust and reference reliable sources, such as websites for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, your state or county.
“The last thing we want is for someone to get sick or hospitalized because they read a misleading post on Facebook,” he said.
Goodfriend encouraged Loudoun County residents to visit the county health department’s website, saying “we’ll get you the information you want to know.”
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The first people to get vaccinated in the D.C. area will align with CDC recommendations that identified the highest priority groups as hospital workers and residents in long-term care facilities.
Everyone else is asked to be patient and to continue to follow safety protocols, such as physical distancing, wearing face masks, washing hands frequently and avoiding group gatherings.
As different tiers of priority groups become eligible, information will come out telling people how to access the free vaccine.
“We’ll have pharmacies that will be able to give vaccines. We’ll have the local health departments and county governments vaccinating and, easily, if other health care providers sign up, they could vaccinate in their own offices,” Goodfriend said.
Early on, it’s expected there will be varieties of vaccines from different manufacturers.
“Each one may be a little bit different in terms of its side-effect profile and when you need to return for the booster dose,” Goodfriend said. “All of them will be deemed safe and effective; there isn’t one that I would be wary of getting at all.”
Vaccinations among the general public are expected to begin in March, but that depends on how quickly higher priority groups can be accommodated.
“Since vaccine will be coming to us as soon as it is made available, there may be some weeks when we get a lot of vaccine, and then there may be periods when there’s none to give out at all,” Goodfriend said.