Health experts debunk vaccine rumors at Juneau community Q&A

Charlee Gribbon (left), infectious disease preventionist from Bartlett Regional Hospital, answers questions about the coronavirus for a KTOO News program on March 5, 2020. Gribbon was a panelist for Wednesday’s community Q&A about the COVID-19 vaccines. (Photo by Rashah McChesney/KTOO)

A panel of local health experts, joined by Alaska’s Chief Medical Officer Dr. Anne Zink, dispelled myths about COVID-19 vaccines at a virtual community Q&A Wednesday.

Zink and the panel addressed concerns about some of the scarier theories about vaccines, like that some people may have been medevaced after taking the vaccine.

Charlee Gribbon at Bartlett Regional Hospital says while Juneau did have the first case of someone having an allergic reaction early on in the vaccination effort, she isn’t aware of anyone being medevaced after taking a vaccine.

Zink backed that up with data.

“We get reports from the FDA of any errors reporting in, and there have been no medevacs in the state related to the COVID-19 vaccine,” Zink said.

The overall message was that all three vaccines that have been authorized by the Food and Drug Administration are safe. Zink says the Pfizer, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson vaccines are all effective in reducing serious illness and death.

Elaine Hickey, a public health nurse, asks a man screening questions during Juneau’s COVID-19 vaccine clinic at Centennial Hall on Friday, Jan. 15, 2021, in Juneau, Alaska. (Photo by Rashah McChesney/KTOO)

The panel also addressed the big question that might be on everyone’s mind: When will things get back to normal?

Local physician Dr. Bob Urata said the answer hinges on the vaccination effort.

“I think that the more people get vaccinated, the sooner we’ll get back to normal, the sooner we’re going to be able to open up our economy, the sooner normal will come to us,” he said.

Zink compared it to fire and kindling.

“If you have so few pieces of kindling to light on fire, the fire can’t go from person to person and take off, and this virus can’t replicate. So if you get enough people that it doesn’t move on, then that’s great,” Zink said. “If you have a lot of fire going, like when your fireplace is like full on, you throw a log in, it takes off and goes off right away. The same is true with this virus.”

Zink also says when it comes to talking to folks who might be hesitant to take the vaccine, communication is key.

“Talking, again, to your healthcare provider, checking out our website, having those conversations and encouraging them to, and I am just amazed at how many times it’s a one-on-one conversation with someone you know and love is the turning point for many, many people,” Zink said.

More than 14,000 people in Juneau have received one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine. More than 7,700 people in Juneau are fully vaccinated.

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