State leaders address vaccine concerns in rural communities

Posted at 11:52 PM, Dec 17, 2020

RICHMOND, Va. -- Thursday, the sixth and final night of the COVID-19 vaccine community conversation in the Commonwealth, focused on rural communities.

"We want to make sure that we meet your needs, that we get the tools and everything that you need to make sure that everyone in the rural community is being vaccinated," Gaylene Kanoyton, with the Virginia Vaccine Advisory Group, said.

The virtual discussion featured leaders from the Virginia Department of Health, as well as Governor Ralph Northam.

They said the conversation is crucial because cases are rising.

“We had over 3,800 new cases today. We recorded 46 additional deaths. We have more people in the hospital, we have more people in the ICU, we have more people on ventilators. We all need to take this seriously," Northam said.

Many people who spoke Thursday night said they’re worried about how communities that don’t have access to the internet, will get the information they need about the vaccine.

“How do we reach our marginalized or underserved population in those rural communities," Robert Foreseman said.

Health care workers and residents in longterm care facilities are first in line for the Pfizer vaccine that arrived in Virginia this week.

The vaccinations are expected to be available to the public by the spring and summer.

But many on the call Thursday worry that the vaccine may have side effects.

“Those that had received the vaccine had a significantly less risk of being symptomatic," Stephanie Wheawill, Division of Pharmacy Services Director, said. “Some of the known side effects include pain or redness at the site of injection, headache, and some have [patients have] had a slight fever or muscle pain.”

State health leaders said they’ll continue monitoring the vaccine effects and continue the conversation next month.

“We want to work together, and we want to ensure that everyone has access to this vaccine," Wheawill said.