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As Cases Rise, Local Health Depts. Battle Vaccine Misinformation

worker fills a syringe with COVID-19 vaccine
Dan Konik
Statehouse News Bureau
As local health departments continue to fight the spread of COVID-19, some also say they're battling inaccurate information about the vaccines at the same time. Meanwhile, new cases of the disease are again on the rise.

Even with vaccines readily available for those 12 and older, cases of COVID-19 are trending upward across the state.

Local health officials say two factors are to blame: the Delta variant and vaccine misinformation.

Summit County Public Health Commissioner Donna Skoda said COVID-19 vaccines have worked. That’s why new cases have plummeted since the start of the pandemic in 2020.

But that rate has been slowly increasing in the last few weeks, largely because of the more contagious Delta variant and the nearly 48% of county residents who are still unvaccinated.

Skoda says the longer people wait, the more likely another mutation could emerge.

“So that’s why you’re seeing us push, push, push. Please get vaccinated, please, before we do get another variant that would require another vaccine,” she said.

Chris Cugini with the Stark County Public Health Department said public health departments are waging a war on two fronts, one against the virus and another against misinformation.

“So not only are we fighting COVID-19, but we’re also fighting an info-demic, right? We have a lot of misinformation and disinformation that are being fed to people through platforms like social media,” he said.

Cuigini said only about 50% of eligible Stark County residents are fully vaccinated.

Stark County is offering Ohio Medicaid and MyCare members $50 gift cards to get vaccinated at its mobile clinic events July 21 and July 28.

Skoda said Summit County may consider using small cash payments or gift cards as ways to incentivize people to get vaccinated if cases continue to rise.

Mark Arehart joined the award-winning WKSU news team as its arts/culture reporter in 2017. Before coming to Northeast Ohio, Arehart hosted Morning Edition and covered the arts scene for Delaware Public Media. He previously worked for KNKX in Seattle, Kansas Public Radio, and KYUK in Bethel, Alaska.