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Hello Idaho: Overcoming anxiety about the COVID-19 vaccine

Idaho health experts want to ensure you the vaccine is safe and effective. Because the vaccine is relatively new, you may be experiencing anxiety about getting it.

BOISE, Idaho — In a matter of days, all Idahoans aged 16 and older will be eligible to receive the COVID-19 vaccine. Idaho health experts continue to ensure residents that all three vaccines are safe and effective, but because the vaccine is relatively new, you may be experiencing feelings of uncertainty.

"A lot of people are concerned about a new vaccine and that's understandable," said Dr. Carolyn Bridges, an internal medicine and public health physician. "But I think it's important for people to understand that these vaccines are built on decades of research."

Researching the efficacy of the vaccine, how many shots are needed for the vaccine to be as effective as possible and the potential side effects of the vaccine are the most important steps Idahoans can take, according to Bridges.

In order to get the best information, it is imperative to utilize reliable resources.

"Of course a wonderful source of info is going to be your physician and your pharmacist," Bridges said. "I think people will feel a whole lot better to have those questions answered in a respectful way."

Turning away from social media can also ease anxiety about the vaccine. Instead, focus on reputable sources backed by science and research.

"Get off social media, because I think it can cause a lot more anxiety and you may not be getting accurate information," Bridges said. "So really consider the source of the information. Look at the Idaho health department's website. You can look at the CDC website. There's also information at immunize.org that you can find, and you can also look at the company websites."

All three COVID-19 vaccines available in the United States- Pfizer, Moderna, and Johnson & Johnson- have been granted Emergency Use Authorization (EUA). Known and potential benefits must outweigh the known and potential risks before a vaccine is approved for use.

"These [vaccine] trials have been very large, so for people who are concerned that the process has been rushed, there are no shortcuts taken in terms of these clinical trials," Bridges said.  "These are amazing vaccines, they are very effective, they are very safe. The risk of severe allergic reactions is rare, in the order of five per [one] million." 

Bridges also wants people to consider the biggest advantage of all: the sooner the virus is under control, the sooner we can be with our family and friends.

"The vaccines are going to help us to see our family members, allowing people to interact more," She said. "We've seen a lot of concerns with problems with anxiety and depression with people being isolated during the pandemic so this will help us overcome much of that and let people interact. We're a very social species, we need each other."

Here are several reliable and reputable sources of vaccine information from Dr. Bridges:

Dr. Carolyn Bridges is a vaccine expert who lives right here in Boise. She's an internal medicine physician, and she worked for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). She retired from the CDC in 2017 as the Associate Director of Adult Immunizations. 

She moved back to Boise to be closer to her parents and started Bridges Med-Epi Consulting LLC, providing consulting predominantly on vaccines. 

Bridges has over 175 publications, predominantly in the areas of influenza, influenza vaccines, and adult immunizations, and has worked on a number of different issues related to COVID-19 disease transmission, and vaccines in 2020 and 2021.

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