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Southern 7 Health Dept. hosts town hall meeting to answer questions, concerns about COVID-19 and vaccines

Updated: May. 25, 2021 at 4:37 PM CDT
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ULLIN, Ill. (KFVS) - Health leaders are gathering virtually in southern Illinois on Tuesday, May 25 to answer the community’s questions and concerns about COVID-19 and vaccines.

The Southern Seven Health Department is leading the town hall meeting this evening from 6 p.m. to 7 p.m. regarding residents’ concerns.

“I think the importance of this town hall is to listen to what the fears are, really listen with compassion and with patience and to dispel myths and allay fears,” said Vidhya Prakash, an infectious disease faculty and professor at SIU’s School of Medicine.

She said this is one of the reasons that this town hall is so important.

“There are a lot of misconceptions around this vaccine. And if we can help dispel those myths and take away fears around those misconceptions and help them get vaccinated, we’re helping them protect themselves and we’re helping them protect their community,” said Prakash.

A group of health care professionals from across the state will also attend the townhall.

“Blue Cross Blue Shield of Illinois involved, we’ll also have Illinois Department of Public health, and then we’ll have SIU School of Medicine involved. We’re also partnering with NAACP, the Alexander Pulaski local branch,” said Southern Seven Health Department Education Director Natalie Sawyer.

She said the townhall was sparked due to lower vaccination rates across some of their counties. The local NAACP Chapter reached out to her for this idea.

“We are just trying to exhaust all measures to make sure that we’re doing everything possible to address the situation regardless of what the underlying reason is,” said Sawyer.

Sawyer explained why it’s important to have this conversation now.

“One of the reasons why it’s so important is, is that I, myself, I’ve had a lot of conversations with community members, who have a lot of valid concerns and questions.”

Prakash’s colleague at the SIU School of Medicine, Vidya Sundareshan, is also joining the conversation.

“This is really the right time to be answering questions, especially helping people who may be on the fence like you said,” said Vidya Sundareshan, infectious disease faculty and professor at SIU School of Medicine.

Lastly, Prakash wants to accomplish an open conversation.

“I hope to establish trust with the community,” she said. “I think these conversations and open dialogue, it always starts with trust. And I’m also hoping, hoping for open and honest dialogue.”

Tuesday night’s townhall can be found on the Southern Seven Health Departments Facebook page.

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