MSDH State Health Officer Thomas Dobbs spoke about vaccine efficacy and addressed concerns about the relatively quick development and deployment of vaccines. Photo courtesy JSU
Jackson State University hosted a virtual town hall to clarify COVID-19 vaccine concerns of the capital city’s younger citizens on Tuesday, featuring a panel of experts to dispel rumors and speak to safety concerns students and local residents may have. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention sponsored the event that included participants from JSU’s counseling and health centers, the Mississippi State Department of Health, and the CDC itself. ElFreda Parker, president of JSU’s DrPH Association, hosted and moderated the town hall.
“Our goal of tonight's town hall is to increase public engagement and deliver effective communication through clear, transparent messaging that plays a significant role in building confidence in the COVID-19 vaccine,” Parker said.
The event was aimed at Jackson’s younger population, aged 18 to 29, who “may be hesitant, reluctant, distrusting or otherwise unmotivated to receive the COVID-19 vaccine,” Parker said.
Dobbs: Vaccine-induced Infertility ‘Just Not True’
MSDH State Health Officer Thomas Dobbs first spoke about vaccine efficacy. “You can see pretty quickly we had a pretty rapid decline in our cases and our hospitalizations,” Dobbs said. He was alluding to an on-screen graph showing the COVID-19 case rate dropping proportionally as vaccination rates increased since last December.
“We had a pretty rapid decline in our cases and our hospitalizations, and you can see a pretty good correlation. As we started vaccinating folks, we started seeing a drop-off in cases,” he said.
Dobbs said he spoke to a young man from Bolton, Miss., who had concerns about trusting the federal government on medical matters due to past wrongs such as the Tuskegee experiments and similar medical abuses of Black Americans.
“We have to say, yes, (it) absolutely did happen. But we got to know that this is almost going to be like a double evil because we have something that's going to protect Black Mississippians and save lives,” Dobbs said. “We talked through it, and he said he knew it, but he just wanted to make sure that I understand the perspective.”
Dobbs also spoke to concerns about the relatively quick development and deployment of vaccines, noting that the technology had been in development for years prior to coming before the public eye in 2020.
“Please know that the technology that made this possible was in development for a decade beforehand,” Dobbs said. “So the laborious research was actually done before, and we were just fortunate to have it ready to go. The vaccine vehicle that was being made for these new COVID vaccines were actually going to go into a flu vaccine, but they figured out a way to twist it so it would protect us from COVID.”
Dobbs also curtly dismissed rumors of vaccine-induced infertility as “Facebook nonsense.”
“It’s just not true,” he said.
President Hudson: Full-Service Semester Ahead, Carefully
JSU President Thomas Hudson noted that the campus will have vaccinations on-site for the upcoming semester, as well as safety protocols in place for the upcoming summer and fall semesters.
“We've had several days where we offered the vaccine en masse,” Hudson said. “We will continue to offer the vaccine, and we will continue to offer testing again as a way to mitigate against the spread.”
“With us going back to more of a full-service semester if you will, this fall there is a need to ensure the safety of our students and not only to our students but our faculty and staff and the public in terms of the still-present pandemic,” Hudson said.
“We actually have a COVID task force that has continuously met and continues to meet, to really plan out what reopening looks like, what classrooms look like in terms of social distancing, what type of mask-wearing in requirements we will have, and also just overall the safety of campus and how do we mitigate the potential for spread for this still-present pandemic.”
“We do look forward to taking all precautions that are necessary in order to reopen safely,” Hudson added. Summer classes at JSU begin on May 18 this year.
Email Reporting Fellow Julian Mills at [email protected].