Polk Co. health director fights back on misinformation, promotes vaccines


POLK COUNTY, Fla. (WFLA) – As Polk County rounds the corner of this latest COVID-19 surge that has sickened and killed thousands of residents, misinformation remains a challenge for the top public health official in the county.

“Things will get legs and you don’t know why they get legs and it is easy for incorrect information to spread very, very quickly,” said Dr. Joy Jackson, director of the Florida Health Department in Polk County.

COVID-19 cases are on the decline.

Last week, state data shows 4,787 new cases last week in Polk County. That is down from 7,700 cases a week during the peak, according to Dr. Jackson.

“It’s a combination of people developing natural immunity because they’ve been sick, people that have received vaccines and other unknown forces regarding the delta variant,” said Dr. Jackson.

Recently, Dr. Jackson addressed Polk County commissioners about alternative drugs including hydroxychloroquine and ivermectin.

Some commissioners want to send a letter to Gov. Ron DeSantis, advocating for more access to the drugs to treat COVID-19.

“It’s about people’s right to try anything that might work,” said commissioner Neil Combee, who proposed the letter.

Leading health agencies say there is no proof yet that those drugs are safe or effective to treat COVID-19.

When it comes to information found on social media, Dr. Jackson recommends listening to reliable sources and most importantly, your doctor.

“My encouragement to individuals is to have discussion with their health care provider about how their individual case should be treated. The best prevention by far is vaccination,” she said.

Sixty-two percent of eligible Polk County residents have received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, according to the latest update from the state.

“I will sleep better when that number is up to potentially 80-85% and I hope we can get there,” said Dr. Jackson.

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