Hesitancy starting to slow COVID-19 vaccination effort

COVID-19 Vaccine

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — There was no vaccine hesitancy at New Hope Baptist Church in Grand Rapids Friday as people left the church with their first or, in some cases, second shot of the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine.

The church hosted one of about a dozen vaccination clinics set up throughout Kent County.

For Mackenzie Eoll, getting vaccinated was an easy decision, despite what she has heard from some friends.

“They just are mainly hesitant about the timing, because it came out so quickly. But always just do your research,” Eoll said.

For Ayana Jones and her mom Bonita Agee, who received their first dose at the clinic, the decision didn’t come as easy. Both had concerns.

Part of those concerns are based on the well-documented historical mistrust among the Black community toward the medical establishment. Part are worries shared by Americans from all walks of life.

“It came about really quickly,” Jones said. “I feel like I needed more research, more answers. Those would be my main reason for hesitation.”

So both mother and daughter did their research and reached out to friends.

“Friends who are doctors,” Agee explained. “So I’ve had lots of conversations and just came to the realization that something I will do and something that I must do.”

So goes the latest battle in the fight to get coronavirus under control. Public health officials across the country are, more and more, battling vaccine hesitancy.

“We’re seeing the same thing. We are seeing less interest in people getting vaccinated in Kent County,” Kent County Health Department Medical Director Dr. Nirali Bora said.

Statewide, age appears to be a factor. Across Michigan, 38.9% of those ages 50 to 64 have received at least one dose of a vaccine. But as ages drop, so do the percentage of takers: 23.5% of those 40 to 44 have been vaccinated; 20.4% of those 30 to 39; and 13.3% for those 20 to 29.

The hesitation is based on a number of factors. Some are taking a wait-and-see approach. Some say they don’t have time to make an appointment, so expect to see more walk-in vaccination clinics, like the one at New Hope, to address that part of the problem.

“We hope it’s more convenient, so people don’t have to think about it. They have time after work, time between meetings; they can swing by,” Bora said.

Then are those who, for a variety of reasons, will never take it.

One of the arguments against vaccinations has been to let nature take its course when it comes to herd immunity. Bora agrees that we could get to herd immunity with or without vaccinations, but we’re already seeing the price of the non-vaccine approach.

“The hospitals have been very busy. The ICUs have been busy,” Bora said. “There are sick people right now in hospitals in Kent County who are young, who don’t have underlying health problems, but they have COVID and they are very sick.”

Back at New Hope, Cecelia Leary brought her mother Betty Reilly to get her vaccination on Friday. Leary got hers weeks ago. The decision wasn’t easy for them. Research and love of family helped Leary overcome her hesitation.

“I just needed to be protected, because I wanted to be around my family and be around my grandkids,” Leary said. “I definitely didn’t want to bring anything their way.”

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