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VDH working to increase low vaccination rates in Page County

Published: Nov. 16, 2021 at 6:38 PM EST
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PAGE COUNTY, Va. (WHSV) - Page County suffered its 82nd COVID-19 death over the weekend. The county continues to struggle with COVID transmission as its vaccination rates remain the lowest in the area, with just 44 percent of the population fully vaccinated.

About 1 in 42 people infected with COVID in Page County have died, and it’s the only Virginia county in the WHSV viewing area where less than 50 percent of the population have received at least one dose of the vaccine.

The Virginia Department of Health says one reason for Page County’s lower vaccination rate is that residents of the rural county simply have less access to vaccine clinics.

“Pharmacies for example that have been giving out about two thirds of the COVID vaccines recently are few on the ground as are primary care practices, the number of available sites where people can access vaccines are limited,” said Dr. Colin Greene, Director of the Lord Fairfax Health District.

Dr. Greene says the spread of misinformation on social media and by some media outlets have also increased people’s vaccine hesitancy across the area and around the country.

“They’ve read that the vaccine has not been adequately tested which absolutely false, that’s not just misinformation that’s incorrect information,” he said. “Some people believe that the side effects of the vaccine are more dangerous than the effects of the disease which is absolutely false.”

Dr. Greene, a retired U.S. Army Colonel, wants to assure people in the area that the vaccine is completely safe.

“The vaccine has been tested it is not experimental, I say that as someone who used to run a medical research lab for the army, the side effects from the vaccine are extremely rare, in the 1 to 10,000 to 1 to 100,000 range,” he said.

Greene says he is continuing to try to educate people on the safety of the vaccine and often has success simply by listening to their concerns and talking with them in a respectful manner.

“I listen to what their concerns are and try to respectfully respond, I’d say something like ‘I’ve heard the same thing and if you look at the research that’s really not true’ you do it respectfully and see if you can change some hearts and minds,” he said.

The vaccine has recently been approved for children ages 5 to 11, and while Page County currently has less than one percent of the children in that age group vaccinated, the Lord Fairfax Health District is partnering with Page County Public Schools to offer vaccine clinics.

One clinic is happening at Luray High School Wednesday, November 17 from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m.

Dr. Greene says the two primary reasons for vaccinating children are to protect them from rare diseases we don’t want to return, like polio and diphtheria, and to stop the spread of diseases like Rubella, which aren’t terribly dangerous to children but are very dangerous to other populations.

“Families getting together for the holidays, if you have young children, you really don’t want to take a disease that might be very dangerous for an elderly relative, so having your child vaccinated first is not only good for the child but it’s good for anyone you might be around, ”said Dr. Greene.

While vaccination rates in Page County remain lower than surrounding counties, Dr. Greene says they are still climbing slowly which is good news.

“Vaccination rates in all of the counties in my district including Page are rising maybe by half a percent to one percent per week in various age groups so there is still progress being made as people who are on the fence or maybe a little uneasy about the vaccine have changed their mind and decided to get vaccinated,” he said.

For those still on the fence, Greene says it’s important to realize the risks of COVID-19 far outweigh the risks of the vaccine.

“You have a choice of getting a virus that may have come from some foreign research lab or from some animal strain, or you can get a vaccine that was developed in FDA-supervised American labs, I’ll pick the vaccine from the American labs, thank you very much,” said Dr. Greene.

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