By David Fleet
Just a few months ago receiving one of the three COVID-19 vaccinations was a challenge. From registration struggles to product shortages to long wait times the demand far out paced the supply.
But there’s a new concern emerging on the horizon for providing people sufficient protected from the virus “vaccine wall” — the point at which supply outstrips demand.
“Vaccinations have fallen off dramatically,” said Genesee County Medical Health Officer Dr. Pamela Hackert during an interview with The Citizen last week. “To respond to that drop in shots, we have tried to shift away half of our vaccinations (available) to walk-ins. The vaccines do not go to waste since they only thaw a certain amount needed. The demand is not as overwhelming as it was early on, so now we are almost all ‘no appointment necessary.’ Our number (wanting) for the vaccination have fallen by almost half. There is no wait.”
According to news sources, even before the J&J suspension news, the U.S. was already approaching a slow down. Now every American who wants a shot can get want they want, whether it’s Pfizer, Moderna or the one-and-done J&J.
Locally, as of April 27 about 41 percent of Genesee County residents had received at least one dose of a vaccine. Hackert said they need to get to about 70 percent vaccinated to prevent the original or “wild type” of COVID-19 and 85 percent for the variant streams. That’s when our world will change, she added.
“There are a number of people who had their names on a list to get the vaccine before it was ready and they now have their shot,” she said. “We also have the people who will never get the vaccine for whatever reason. There is now a large majority of remaining people that are ‘vaccine hesitant’ due to one particular aspect of the vaccination process. It’s those people we are trying to get the message out.”
The GCHD is now trying to identify what that question is that has kept individuals from getting the shot. Some of the factors include vaccination safety, needle phobia and the side effects of the vaccine.
“For the side effects (issue) I would respond that your immune system is responding robustly,” she said. “If you don’t have any response to the vaccine it is still working, about 50 percent of the people have some slight reaction. It such a shadow of what the COVID virus would have on an individual.”
Hackert said the GCHD has a hotline to call if you have any question regarding the vaccine.
The long term health concern regarding the decline in vaccinations for health officials is getting more shots in arms.
“It’s a concern, particularly with the variants that are now in our state and county,” she said.
As of Tuesday, there are about 100 variant cases in Genesee County reported, originating from the United Kingdom, Brazil, South Africa, and two different variants from California.
“That makes it all more important to get the vaccine,” she added. “It takes two weeks (after the shot) to get protection from the vaccine.”
“The percentage of people that are positive has shifted dramatically in the last four months,” she said. “About half our cases are now under 50 years old, with 25 percent under 18-years-old. These vaccines are incredibly safe. They are effective, the benefits not only to yourself and family but also to returning to a normal life in the United States. It’s coming.You will soon be able to see your loved ones.”