As the COVID-19 pandemic continues, the Eastern Kentucky University School of Nursing, Madison County Health Department and Upward Bound Ministries collaborated to educate the community and share their expertise surrounding COVID-19 and vaccines.

“When you look at the reasons for getting the vaccine, of course it helps protect us from severe disease and hospitalization and possibly death, and not only that, one of the main things is you want to be selfless in getting the vaccine. You are protecting others in your family as well as those who you come in contact with around the community,” EKU School of Nursing assistant professor Dr. Quentin Moore said.

As of Sept. 16, Kentucky Public Health reports that 48.12% of the population in Madison County is vaccinated, something Moore and other panelists hope increases in the near future as variants like Delta continue to spread throughout communities.

When it comes to the Delta variant, Moore said the Pfizer vaccine is still 88% effective against preventing COVID-19, and when it comes to hospitalization, Pfizer is 96% effective in preventing admissions into the hospital. Moore said that Moderna is 72% effective in preventing COVID-19 and 96% effective in preventing hospitalizations.

School of Nursing professor Dr. Fontaine Sands addressed people's worries that the vaccine development was rushed. Dr. Sands said that, due to the pandemic, the federal government allowed scientists and pharmaceutical companies to develop the vaccine while going through trials with less “red tape” slowing down the process. Another reason Dr. Sands said the vaccine was developed so quickly was because of the large amount of community involvement and desire for protection against COVID-19.

“Normally, it might take you two years to get 100,000 people to volunteer to be in a trial. They were able to get volunteers very quickly. The process of going through those three phases was much quicker because the federal government paid for the research,” Dr. Sands said.

Dr. Sands said the scientists and pharmaceutical companies still went through the proper safety protocols, and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration followed suit.

“I think we can say that this vaccine is as safe as it can possibly be,” Dr. Sands said.

Dr. Moore said since the emergence of COVID-19, the affected populations have changed. Moore said the first strand of the virus affected those who were older, immunocompromised and had underlying conditions.

“Now, when you look at the Delta variant, it has turned everything we’ve thought about this disease on its head,” Dr. Moore said. “Now it is affecting the younger population, it is affecting people who are in their 20s, it’s affecting children. When you look at the news or read, now we have record numbers of children who are being hospitalized for COVID. Not only that, we have an increased number of deaths.”

As of Sept. 16, the Kentucky Public Health Department has reported over 644,00 cases of COVID-19 and 8,206 deaths. Just 46% of individuals 12-17 years old have received their first dose, the lowest percentage of all age groups.

Students returning to the classroom has created an increase in cases around the state. Dr. Moore said that approximately ⅕ of Kentucky school systems have shut down at some point due to an outbreak of COVID-19.

Dr. Sands addressed the false claims that the vaccine will cause infertility and miscarriages.

“We have pregnant women who are getting vaccinated. They are looking at women who get COVID who are having miscarriages because of the inflammation, the illness itself … There is no evidence at this point that there is any risk (of infertility or miscarriages with the vaccine).”

Dr. Sands said herd immunity or natural immunity would be the only ways to defeat COVID-19. She hopes that everyone will get vaccinated, and, if they still have questions or concerns, talk to their primary care provider.

Ava Wright, Madison County Health Department director of nursing, said that the department offers the Moderna and Johnson & Johnson vaccines. Anyone who wants a vaccine can schedule an appointment at 859-626-4223 or visit www.madisoncountyhealthdept.org

Wright mentioned that anyone who is immunocompromised could receive a third dose, which is different from a booster. Wright said that the FDA is still looking at a booster dose, and there will be meetings in the following weeks to discuss approval of a booster schedule for all individuals that can receive the vaccine.

Wright said the vaccines at the health department are available for anyone, and it doesn’t matter if they are a county resident or not. She urged the audience to visit vaccinefinder.org to find local vaccination locations near them.

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