Student Pharmacist Teaches Patients How to Find Credible Vaccine Information
Jimmy Istifan, a student pharmacist at Cedarville University School of Pharmacy, encourages patients to avoid unreliable social media for COVID-19 information and helps them navigate credible sources like the CDC website.
Over the course of the vaccine rollout at Meijer Pharmacy near Dayton, Ohio, Cedarville University School of Pharmacy student pharmacist Jimmy Istifan heard a lot of misinformation about COVID-19 vaccines from customers who visited the store.
On a daily basis, Istifan addressed patients’ comments such as, “I heard the vaccine has a microchip in it that the government will use to track us,” “The Pfizer and Moderna vaccines permanently change your DNA,” “I don’t want the vaccine because it makes you infertile,” and “The government is using the vaccine for population control.”
Istifan recalls a woman who brought her phone to the pharmacy counter and showed him a Facebook post that included a meme stating that the vaccine altered DNA. He explained to her that the vaccine stimulates the body’s immune system and that the mRNA it contains doesn’t have any effect on a person’s DNA.
Then Istifan took his counseling a step further.
“The most important thing to do in situations where patients are repeating misinformation is to guide them to the right sources,” Istifan said.
The student pharmacist explained to the woman that the internet in general, and social media in particular, are rife with misinformation about vaccines and COVID-19. He told her that she shouldn’t trust everything she read on the internet and encouraged her to seek out health information from credible and reliable sources.
Pulling up CDC’s website on his computer screen, Istifan showed the woman how to find patient-friendly information about COVID-19 vaccines. He walked her through the guidelines for vaccination and other pertinent information about the development and approval process, the contents of the vaccine, and the role of mRNA in the vaccine.
Show patients on their smartphones or tablets how to find credible vaccine information.
“You can’t just tell patients to visit CDC.gov,” Istifan said. “They still may not be able to find the information if they have no experience using the site or don’t know what to look for.”
Given that patients tend to have smartphones and tablets with them wherever they go, Istifan recommends showing patients right in the pharmacy, using their own personal electronic devices, how to find and navigate websites that contain credible health information.
In addition to administering COVID-19 vaccines at Meijer, where he has worked for 5 years, Istifan has administered vaccines at various university-sponsored community clinics to Somalian and Central American refugees at a charitable organization that serves them, and he has immunized underserved, homebound patients across Dayton, Columbus, and Cincinnati.
Resources to help Discuss the Importance of COVID-19 Vaccination and Answer Common Questions about COVID-19 vaccine are available at APhA’s Vaccine Confident microsite.