On Wednesday, the Center for Disease Control recommended the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine to be used for 12 to 15-year-olds — and Natrona County's top doctor is working to dispel common myths surrounding the vaccine.

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In Natrona County, expanding who can get vaccinated may do little to increase the number of people that get the vaccine, as Wyoming is the state with the greatest levels of vaccine hesitancy.

Natrona County Health Officer Dr. Mark Dowell said he sees a lot of patients who have questions about the vaccine and tries his best to address misinformation.

"I hear things like 'you're advocating for the vaccine cause you're getting paid to say it,' I don't get anything, 'well they're making money off the vaccine,' not really, the vaccine is free to anybody, there's no money out of pocket. 'I hear that the shot will make you sicker than the natural disease' and I say that's not true at all, any side effects from the vaccine are very short-lived and not that different from other vaccines we get."

Dowell said he tries to give people a sense of how important it is to get vaccinated by talking about how COVID-19 has personally impacted his life.

"One of the things I've said to many of my patients is that, when you actually watch someone get ill from this, or die, or know somebody that knew somebody that died, it changes your perspective on how you look at the vaccine. I've had 2 friends of mine die from COVID, and it's heartbreaking. I can personalize it with my patients as well. I just give them the best advice I can, that's all I can do."

Dowell said a big source of the misinformation he hears comes from social media, where it is difficult to combat the spread of lies about masks and vaccines.

"I just want make sure they get accurate information, that's the hardest part," Dowell said. "There are several negative things about social media, and there are a lot positives, but one of the negatives things, is people put out stuff that I don't know where it comes from. There was this physician that put out that masks cause cancer and masks cause Lupus, and this craziness, people come in to ask me about that, so it makes my job about 50 times harder and it makes it harder for society to get people vaccinated so people can be safer and do well."

With everyone decrying needing to wear a mask, Dowell said that he tells his patients that if they don't want to wear a mask, vaccines are the best way to avoid needing one in the future.

"You want to open up, you don't want your family to get ill, you want a lot of restrictions to go away, here's a great tool to consider using to get there very quickly and to not have to go through all this masking and all this other stuff and worry about your parents," Dowell said. "Here's a tool that's safe, why don't you consider taking advantage of it."

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