By Christopher Plein, Ph.D.
The pandemic has dominated our lives now since early 2020. In these unprecedented times of uncertainty, it is not surprising that we seek the familiar. One of the things that I have done is to turn to the past by reading historical stories both real and imagined. For some reason, I have been gravitating to books about the explorers and settlers crossing North America during the early 1800s. And the more I have read, the more I realize the parallels that exist between their journeys and ours today. For in a sense, we have all been pioneers dealing with uncertainty and apprehension.
And like those past pioneers, we look for sources of information and guidance to help us along the way to an unknown destination. Both then and now, we seek trusted sources. Those 19th-century pioneers had to rely on word-of-mouth accounts, vague maps, and guides who might or might not have the skills and ability to safely and successfully lead a party to their destination. Today, we face similar challenges in navigating the flood of information, perceptions, and opinions regarding the pandemic. We are far enough along on our journey to have learned some lessons, but we also realize that there is much that lies ahead. Every day there seems to be a new challenge, whether it’s access to vaccines, new or revised safety protocols, the emergence of the COVID-19 Delta variant, or other contingencies.
Trust depends on accurate information about current circumstances. But it is also measured in having confidence that those providing guidance now will also be able to help us adapt and manage unforeseen developments in the future. Today, we have the advantage of relying on dependable and clear sources of information to help us on our journey. In this blog, I want to highlight some resources that can help in caring for ourselves and for others.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is a key source of accessible and expert information on many aspects of the pandemic. As our attention has turned to vaccines, the CDC has made available various reports, resources, and summaries. For example, the CDC hosts a Vaccines website providing general information, including on how to access vaccines. The website’s Myth and Facts tab help to debunk some of the rumors and misperceptions that surrounding vaccines. The CDC also takes a deeper dive into related subjects by publishing reports and briefs on COVID-19. For example, the recently published Science Brief: COVID-19 Vaccines and Vaccination provides a helpful overview of the efficacy of the vaccines now in use in the United States.
In the U.S., public health responsibilities are shared across local, state, and federal governments. Because of this, state health departments can also provide authoritative guidance. A look at just a few states, where many active-duty military families reside, offers some insights into the information provided. For example, California hosts a dedicated website to COVID-19 providing information on safety protocols, vaccines, education, and more. North Carolina’s website provides answers to frequently asked questions, emphasizing, for example, that vaccines are free and that no government ID or insurance is required to receive a vaccine. Georgia provides a dashboard on COVID-19 Daily Status that provides up-to-date information and trend analysis on the disease. Similar web-based resources are found in most states, as well as in many major cities.
Trusted resources can help us in this complex and challenging journey. The Military Families Learning Network brings together those in both the Defense and Extension communities in service to military families. Each is helping to offer guidance on the pandemic. For example, the Defense Health Administration and TRICARE provide information and resources regarding COVID and vaccine access. TRICARE hosts a COVID Guidance webpage that provides essential information on care and vaccine access. Within the Extension community, a new partnership is being forged with CDC called the EXCITE program. This initiative seeks to promote vaccine “uptake” for underserved and at-risk populations. While the immediate focus of this project is on COVID-19 vaccinations, its broader purposes include promoting immunization education and outreach for many types of diseases. In the months ahead, we will do our best to keep you informed of resources that can be of assistance in caregiving. Stay safe and well.
Christopher Plein, Ph.D., is a part of the MFLN Military Caregiving Concentration and West Virginia University
Extension Foundation (2021, July 29). Excite: Extension collaboration on immunization, teaching & engagement. https://pages.extension.org/excite
Georgia Department of Public Health (2021, July 29). Daily status report. https://dph.georgia.gov/covid-19-daily-status-report
North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services (2021, July 29). Frequently asked questions about COVID-19 vaccinations. https://covid19.ncdhhs.gov/vaccines/frequently-asked-questions-about-covid-19-vaccinations#can-non-us-citizens-get-the-vaccine
State of California (2021, July 29). California all: COVID19.CA.GOV. https://covid19.ca.gov/
TRICARE (2021, July 6). Health and wellness: COVID guidance.https://www.tricare.mil/HealthWellness/HealthyLiving/Coronavirus
U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (2021, July 29). Vaccines for COVID-19. https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/vaccines/index.html
U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (2021, July 27). Science Brief: COVID-19 vaccines and vaccination.https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/science/science-briefs/fully-vaccinated-people.html#print
U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (2021, July 7). Myths and facts about COVID-19 vaccines. https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/vaccines/facts.html