Although about half of all eligible Americans have received at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine, the number of vaccinations administered has fallen significantly in the past week, The Washington Post reports.
Public health officials blamed a combination of reluctance, lack of access to health care, and the pause on the Johnson & Johnson vaccine as factors for the drop in vaccinations. Some officials said that they need to increase their work getting the vaccine out to rural residents and seniors that cannot leave their homes, educate young people about why they should get the vaccine, and answer questions from people who are concerned about side effects.
"This will be much more of an intense ground game where we have to focus on smaller events more tailored to address the needs and concerns of focused communities who have different sensitivities and different needs," said Steven Stack, Kentucky Department for Public Health commissioner.
Earlier this week, President Joe Biden attempted to help encourage Americans to get the vaccine by promising tax credits to employers that allow their workers to take paid time off to recover from the vaccine, which can have side effects including fatigue and nausea, among others.
"The time is now to open up a new phase of this historic vaccination effort," Biden said on Wednesday. "To put it simply, if you’ve been waiting for your turn, wait no longer."
Officials said that the pause of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine over concerns about blood clots probably helped contribute to the drop in vaccinations, but noted that there are still plenty of vaccine doses from Moderna and Pfizer-BioNTech to make up for the delay, and others said that the pause proves that the government is taking vaccine safety seriously.
"We have absolutely seen that anyone who was positing the theory that they just quickly threw out these half-baked vaccines and they don’t care even what happens to it have obviously seen that is not the case," said Ngozi Ezike, Illinois Department of Public Health director. "We are much better off than we were before the pause."
Galveston County, Texas health official Philip Keiser told the Post that he asked the state to hold off on sending more vaccine doses to his county while he attempts to increase outreach to the community, specifically hard-to-reach residents and schools.
"We’re past that point of vaccine eagerness, well into vaccine hesitancy, and having supply drive what we do is a mistake," he said.
Jason Menchhofer, the local health administrator of Mercer County in Ohio said that they haven’t gotten new shipments of the vaccine in three weeks as demand has dropped.
"We had a couple of private practices that were scheduled to get shipments, but before it even got here they were looking to offload it to someone else," he said. "They don’t have demand for it among their clientele anymore."
Iowa state officials reported on Wednesday that almost half the state’s counties have refused doses of the vaccine, prompting Gov. Kim Reynolds to ask unvaccinated residents: "What are you waiting for?"
"If you’ve been a hard ‘no’ from the start, what’s your reason?" she asked. "And if you can’t answer those questions, maybe, we hope, that you take the time to reconsider."
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