Health officials provide updates, dismiss myths during COVID-19 vaccine town hall

A health care worker takes a selfie as he gets a dose of COVID-19 vaccine at Henry Mayo Newhall Hospital vaccination center on Friday, 011520, 011520. Dan Watson/The Signal

During an online town hall meeting Tuesday night, a panel of Los Angeles County health officials updated residents about the ongoing vaccine distribution effort, while also dismissing a handful of myths they’ve heard about COVID-19.

Dr. Paul Simon, the chief science officer for the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health, informed residents that a variant of the disease from the United Kingdom was present within L.A. County, that there is legitimate concern this particular strain is more transmissible, and that medical professionals believe it may become the dominant strain within the United States over the next couple of months. 

“Fortunately, the current evidence suggests that the COVID-19 vaccines are effective against this variant,” said Simon. “However, its rapid spread highlights the critical importance of consistent use of the face masks and physical distancing when out in public … (and) the importance of getting as many persons vaccinated as quickly as possible.”

Dr. Seira Kurian, the L.A. County Public Health director of medical affairs, stated that since vaccinations began in December, 70% of the 685,000 total doses received by the county have been administered. 

However, while the county expects its mass vaccination sites at Dodger Stadium and the five new sites opened as of Tuesday will help vaccinate 200,000 individuals over the next two weeks, they also said 300,000 health care workers and approximately one million individuals over the age of 65 still need to be vaccinated within the county as a part of the first phase of the county vaccine rollout. 

Kurian estimated that the general public will have access to vaccinations in the late spring or early summer.

In an effort to ensure that the progress they’ve made with their vaccine rollout continues, Dr. Eloisa Gonzalez, director of cardiovascular and school health at the Public Health Department, dismissed a handful of myths surrounding the vaccine and COVID-19 in general. 

Gonzalez assured those in the town hall that rumors circulating online that the vaccines being used presently within the United States, both the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines, were developed through the use of fetal cells, were false assertions.

She also challenged rumors that the virus was a part of a “plandemic,” that the vaccine rollout was “slow” as a way to conduct “population control,” and that the coronavirus is no more dangerous than the flu.

“I think the evidence is pretty clear at this point that COVID-19 is many times more lethal than the flu,” said Gonzalez. “Before COVID-19, in 2018 L.A. County 98 deaths from the flu in about one year. So far, in just over one year, we have lost more than 13,000 people in L.A. County to COVID.” 

Gonzalez also assured immigrants within L.A. County that they did not need to fear being deported or having their immigration status challenged if they go in to get tested or receive the vaccine.

“The federal government announced over the summer that immigrants can get tested and immunized without fearing any consequences of the public charge roll,” said Gonzalez. 

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