State officials fight misinformation on COVID vaccines

Maine health officials fight against vaccine misinformation.
Maine health officials fight against vaccine misinformation.(Pixabay)
Published: Oct. 7, 2021 at 4:12 PM EDT
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BANGOR, Maine (WABI) - As the Delta variant spreads across Maine bringing case counts to some of the highest we’ve encountered during the pandemic, so, too, does misinformation.

TV5 spoke with state officials about what they are dealing with.

“I think it’s one of the principal driving forces behind hesitancy, if not the singular driving force,” said Dr. Nirav Shah.

Health officials say they are working to combat the glut of misinformation that is out there.

“I’ve heard one that bothers me a lot, which is, I can’t afford it,” offered DHHS Commissioner Jeanne Lambrew. “The COVID vaccine, across the nation, in the state of Maine, there’s no charge for it. It’s free.”

There are also concerns over long-term effects.

“The thing to remember is that vaccines, when we talk about long-term side effects of vaccines, they tend to occur within the first eight weeks of somebody getting the vaccine administered,” reported Northern Light Health’s Dr. James Jarvis. “Eight weeks is not a long time, and so, when we talk about long-term effects for vaccines, we’ve already passed not just that eight week mark, but we’ve now passed the eight month mark and the one year mark for some individuals.”

As of Thursday, the Maine CDC reports just under 75 percent of the state’s eligible population has received the final dose of the vaccine. Those numbers are near the best in the nation. But what is going on with that other 25 percent?

“There may be medical reasons or religious or philosophical reasons why folks are still on the fence, but misinformation, improper scientific findings, misconstruing of statistics, those have become so widespread now that I fear that people have internalized them to make them their own identity,” said Shah.

Shah says the work now is to change those people’s minds, and reminding people that it’s ok to do so.

“And so now my concern is that rather than simply trying to correct the scientific facts, misinformation has become so pervasive that folks have incorporated it into their identity. And that’s a much more difficult thing to overcome. It’s more than just about correcting the scientific record, it’s asking people to abandon core beliefs that they may have had, that’s a challenge, it’s not just related to vaccines, but I think we see it in so many areas of science right now.”

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