COVID Vaccination Demand Slowing in Parts of US A registered nurse administers a dose of the Moderna Covid-19 vaccine at a Veterans Administration (VA) Long Beach Healthcare System pop-up vaccination site at the Dae Hueng Presbyterian Church on April 17, 2021 in Gardena, California. (Photo by Patrick T. Fallon/AFP via Getty)
By Jim Thomas | Sunday, 18 April 2021 08:36 PM
Public health officials say there's been a significant drop in demand for the coronavirus vaccine in certain parts of the country and that there's still work to be done to get communities of color greater access to the shots, reports CNN.
"We're reaching the point where we're getting to the hard audiences," Lori Tremmel Freeman, CEO of the National Association of County and City Health Officials (NACCHO), told the news outlet. "The ones that either are unsure or on the fence about the vaccine, don't have enough information or are just plain outright… not interested in the vaccine for other reasons."
Three months into the largest immunization campaign in American history, nearly 50 million people have received at least one shot.
As of April 13, according to data collected by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 65 percent of nearly 25 million of those vaccinated were White, 11 percent were Hispanic, 9 percent were Black, 5 percent were Asian and 1 percent were American Indian or Alaska Native.
The next phase of the vaccine effort, said Claire Hannan, executive director of the Maryland-based Association of Immunization Managers, which represents vaccination officials, will be much more challenging, reported PewTrusts.org
“We know we can’t just flip a switch and reach the people who didn’t line up for the vaccine from the start. We should have been reaching out to those populations all along,” she told Pew Trusts. “We have to start now to deliver vaccines to communities where demand is low, particularly where residents already have borne a disproportionate share of hospitalizations and deaths."
Some states already are taking steps to gain community trust and identify barriers to more people getting vaccinated.
But “if they don’t make a really concerted effort now, I fear that things will open up to more and more people but leave a lot of people behind who are more vulnerable and at higher risk of serious outcomes of the disease,” Hannan said.
To successfully outpace and eventually overtake COVID and its variants, those most likely to be hospitalized or die if infected should be quickly inoculated, CNN reports.
The goal is to reach herd immunity, a widely debated concept that most scientists, including Dr. Anthony Fauci, say can be achieved by vaccinating roughly 80% of the adult population, leaving the coronavirus with so few hosts who are not immune to the virus — either through inoculation or previous infection – that is suppresses its spread, reported CNN.
Some public health experts calculate that because the fear of contracting COVID-19 is greater than that for the flu, vaccination rates may end up being higher.
“Unlike the flu, COVID has been so devastating and novel that people are scared of it,” said Dr. Marcus Plescia, chief medical officer for the Association of State and Territorial Health Officials, which represents state health department officials. “As a result, I expect we’ll eventually get more people who want to be vaccinated for COVID than for flu.” reported PewTrusts.org.
However, at least one part of Louisiana says Covid-19 vaccine demand has "completely fallen off."
Georgia officials announced recently they were shutting down a mass vaccination site due to low demand. Tennessee leaders said late last month they were opening eligibility following low numbers of vaccinations in rural areas. Parts of Texas have also seen declining demand, reported CNN.
"We're reaching the point where we're getting to the hard audiences," said Lori Tremmel Freeman, CEO of the National Association of County and City Health Officials (NACCHO). "The ones that either are unsure or on the fence about the vaccine, don't have enough information or are just plain outright… not interested in the vaccine for other reasons,” she said.
The slowing of vaccine acceptance is not surprising, says infectious diseases specialist and epidemiologist Dr. Céline Gounder.
Many Americans, including among communities of color, still have challenges with access, epidemiologist Dr. Gounder told CNN. Civil rights leaders also said, say that many people of color just do not have vaccine sites in their neighborhood.
"The work that we're doing on the equity piece needs to be done more deeply and done in the communities where people are living and working," said NACCHO's Freeman. "We have to be very creative in finding unique ways to reach people, including making sure that they have the easiest access possible to vaccine."
Some people just refuse to trust the government or government healthcare.
"Then you have another group that is much more resistant, more entrenched in their views, it's about 20% of Americans," Dr. Gounder said. Those are more rural, conservative Americans who lack trust in the healthcare system and government, she said.
"It means that geographically you're likely to have — not just according to rural versus not rural, but also referring to politics — certain populations that have lower vaccination coverage rates," Gounder said. "And so… you're likely to see more transmission within those subgroups." And those populations, she added, could potentially seed spread back into other communities.
They say one way to increase vaccination rates is to create programs targeting minorities and populations in their home communities, reported CNN.