COVID-19 vaccines have been available for months, but questions are still circulating.
No, vaccines don't carry microchips, harmful ingredients or a live virus that can give you COVID-19. The vaccines don't contain aborted fetal cells and they don't cause fertility issues.
Health care experts from Lincoln University, the Cole County Health Department and the Community Health Center answered those questions and more at a town hall Tuesday evening hosted by KJLU, Lincoln's campus radio station. The goal of the town hall was to set the record straight on hesitancy and questions surrounding COVID-19 vaccines.
Almost 60 percent of Missourians have been fully vaccinated with two doses, said Donna Seidel, clinic manager with the Cole County Health Department, but some still have questions that prevent them from getting the jab.
The vaccine is safe and underwent the rigorous testing the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention requires, said Crystal Sullivan, a family physician and CEO of the Community Health Center of Central Missouri. Much of the research and work required for the vaccine was done before there was a sudden need for it, she said, which is how it became available quickly.
If you have questions about how the vaccine could affect you, Sullivan and the other health care experts suggest talking to your doctor.
As a practicing family doctor, Sullivan said she's encountered people who are hesitant to take the vaccine, but she approaches the subject like any other health discussion with a patient.
That often looks like a one-on-one dialogue weighing different factors, she said.
"I have the luxury of taking care of a lot of my patients for 10 years or more and so they have a trust in me and they know me, and I know them, and I know their background," she said. "So it makes those conversations easy because they're used to me talking to them about things that they may not always see the need for, but I do recommend."
Not everyone is going to take the vaccine, Sullivan said, but she at least tries to meet patients where they are and discuss how they can best keep themself safe and healthy.
Those conversations are also important for combating COVID-19 misinformation, Sullivan said. Patients with questions about the vaccine should take them to their doctor, who can provide the most specific answers and care recommendations.
And an open dialogue could be what helps someone doubting the effectiveness of vaccines, said Chezney Schulte, a communicable disease nurse with the Cole County Health Department.
If an individual is vaccine hesitant, Schulte said it usually isn't helpful to judge their decision or pry into their private health conditions but maybe suggest other measures that can help keep them safe.
"It really is a private health care decision and it really is just one factor that you can use to help decrease your risk of severe illness and risk of hospitalization," she said about vaccines.
Schulte said it's also important to recognize that advice and guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and local health departments can change, particularly as more research on the virus is done.
"Scientific communities are allowed to learn more about a new, emerging infection. They're allowed to be wrong and change their ideas if that's appropriate at the time," Schulte said. "But they're providing the best recommendations with the information that they have about a new virus."
She said those changing recommendations could be the source of doubt for some people holding out on getting the vaccine, but it shouldn't.
"That's part of the scientific process," Schulte said.