Lake County Health Department Roundtable

Lake County Health Department stresses avoiding misinformation, getting vaccinated

Following the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) authorizing the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine for anyone ages five years and older, the Lake County Health Department held a roundtable on Nov. 15 for student journalists from various local high schools. The roundtable stressed the importance of identifying and ignoring misinformation, and emphasized the need to get vaccinated.

 The Health Department’s message last month is still being echoed by health departments nationwide as Omicron cases spike, infecting the unvaccinated at high rates, and threatening to elongate the effects of the pandemic.  

The first speaker, Executive Director Mark Pfister, began by speaking to the logistics of the vaccine itself. He explained that the technology in the vaccines is not new, and though isn’t 100 percent effective, works to prevent and minimize the effects of COVID-19. 

“COVID-19 vaccines are a critical tool to protect our families, friends, classmates and school faculty,” Pfister said. 

Medical epidemiologist Sana Ahmed spoke of the mitigation techniques that work best and how well some schools have implemented these strategies. She explained that layered mitigation (masks, distancing, ventilation, vaccinations and plexi-glass) is most effective. 

In the most extensive portion of the roundtable, Communications Director Emily Young addressed some common myths and misconceptions about the COVID-19 vaccine. 

She explained that even if an individual has the COVID-19 antibodies, they are  safer with the vaccine. Ahmed also chipped in to discredit the argument that the virus is just like the flu, reminding listeners that COVID-19, “does not discriminate, it affects everyone.” 

The Lake County Health Department emphasized that any argument that the vaccine was developed too quickly is invalid and should not be used as a reason to avoid getting it. They also discredited any claims that the vaccine impacts fertility or changes the recipient’s DNA. 

According to the Health Department, the largest driver of new cases were from those under 18. Cases are surging despite the county vaccination rate at 75.6%. Lake County (as of Nov. 15) had the third highest number of vaccinations in Illinois in terms of population and the lowest number of deaths per 1,000 people. 

The vaccine in Lake County has proven effective against COVID-19 and its Delta variant; the CDC has added it is also effective against the newer Omicron variant.

“The sooner we get vaccinated, the sooner we get our lives back,” Pfister said.