Combating vaccine hesitancy in the south to reach herd immunity

Coronavirus

ATLANTA, Ga. (WJBF) – Doctors say the recent pause of the Johnson and Johnson vaccine could delay vaccine rollout efforts as the vaccine hesitancy could delay achieving herd immunity.

The State’s health department says 56-thousand people per 100k have received at least one vaccine dose in Georgia, but Georgia still lags behind our states.

From infections to injections ,variants to vaccines, the race to normalcy is on.

Roger MacArthur, Professor of Medicine and Infectious Diseases at Augusta University said, “What we are seeing now in the military and younger populations is 30 and younger, many apparently if they get COVID-29 they won’t get a severe case.

Dr. Cecil Bennett, Medical Director at Newnan Family Medicine said, “If you have been fully vaccinated, the chances of you contracting COVID is remote, the chance of you transmitting COVID is also remote.”

In Georgia, 34% of people have received at least one dose, while 24% are fully vaccinated.

Dr. Cecil Bennett said, “I am in South Georgia, so I am in a community that is already hesitant about getting the vaccine”.

Doctors say vaccine hesitancy is strong in the south, especially in communities of color and younger populations.

MacArthur said, “Over 80% of people over the age of 65 have been vaccinated including those in extended care facilities have been vaccinated and we aren’t seeing COVID in that population anymore.”

The CDC’s new guidelines for fully vaccinated people to go outside without masks could be an incentive for some to get the dose.

“The vaccine is safe and very effective. We started to administer to our medical students in January and we have not seen one student test positive since January 20th,” said MacArthur.

Dr. Kathleen Toomey DPH, Public Health Commissioner said, “But the faster we can get all communities vaccinated, the quicker we will get back to where we want to be. We are hoping 80% will be vaccinated by July 4th and can celebrate our independence day.”

Georgia’s state health department says, of the nearly 300-thousand people who tested positive this year between January and April, around 400 people contracted the coronavirus after getting the vaccine.

DPH is working with faith groups to debunk vaccine myths in rural areas and hard to reach populations like minority groups and those who are home bound.

“DPH is working with the Health Equity Council, faith-based organizations and many other community groups to address vaccine hesitancy and answer questions individuals may have about safety or efficacy or anything else that is giving them pause. DPH and the health districts are scheduling faith-based and community-based vaccination events, industry/business vaccination clinics, and mobile vaccination efforts.”

“We are currently working with CORE (Community Organized Relief Effort) on mobile vaccination events across Cobb, Columbus, DeKalb, Fulton, Laurens, Troup and Ware counties and are adding more counties weekly. CORE will also visit senior care facilities and host targeted events for hard to reach populations and communities of color in the coming days and weeks.”

GEORGIA DEPARTMENT OF PUBLIC HEALTH

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