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Rural health departments fight disinformation, encourage people to get vaccinated

In Clear Creek County, the health director got his vaccine on-camera to show the public that it's safe.

As vaccines are distributed across the state, some health departments are facing an uphill battle to convince people that the vaccine is safe – saying online disinformation is making it more difficult to gain the trust of the public.

At a fire station in Idaho Springs, the first shipment of vaccines offers an opportunity to gain trust.

"Actions go a very long way, and we’re hoping today will help facilitate that," said Dr. Timothy Ryan, the health director in Clear Creek County. "Our primary objective is to instill some confidence in the general public around the safety of this vaccine."

Dr. Ryan invited 9NEWS to be there this week as he and other county leaders received their first doses of the coronavirus vaccine.

For now, only frontline healthcare workers and county leaders are getting the vaccine. The general public will have access to it next year. Dr. Ryan wants to make sure people feel comfortable getting it when it’s available.  

"The biggest challenge, and it continues to be a challenge moving forward, is communication. Understanding the facts and reality and communicating that in an effective way has been primarily the biggest challenge," said Dr. Ryan. "When they see the fire chief and the sheriff and EMS and public health director getting the vaccine, it builds confidence around the safety of the vaccine."

The first shipment of 100 doses in Clear Creek County is just the beginning. The hope is that leading by example makes the end of the pandemic come quicker.  

Clear Creek County hopes that it will receive another 100 doses of the vaccine this week and every week going forward. However, they understand that challenges with the rollout of the vaccine may cause disruptions with the shipping.

"Nothing speaks louder than action," said Dr. Ryan. "We could have a million vaccines and unless they’re in people’s arms, they’re really not going to be effective."

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