Coronavirus Vaccine – Tackling Coronavirus Vaccine Hesitancy Across Orange County
More than 822,000 people have been fully vaccinated for the Coronavirus in Orange County, as hospitalizations and the virus’ positivity rate among residents tested for it have been trending downward.
Yet there are some concerns about the obstacles that vaccine hesitancy can pose to that progress, already held back by the county’s Latino vaccination gaps that have only bridged gradually.
As one health expert pointed out to Voice of OC, not all the county’s tiers of eligible groups (age ranges, labor sectors by industry) to get the shot have been “saturated.”
“First, we haven’t fully achieved full vaccination in any of the tiers,” said Bernadette Boden-Albala, an epidemiologist and founding dean for the University of California, Irvine public health program, in a Thursday interview.
“We’re hovering in all of those tiers somewhere around 65% to 70% so we still have to focus efforts on that,” Boden-Albala said. “Vaccine hesitancy in OC remains a significant concern.”
One indication of the urgency to vaccinate as many people possible:
“Right now, there’s a very low prevalence of the South African Covid-19 variation — the worst variation associated with Covid-19 — and now is the time to get vaccinated so we don’t start seeing this variant become more prevalent,” Boden-Albala said, adding:
“We’re in this really critical time crunch now. We have very low rates of Covid-19 in Orange County, a low prevalence of the worst variant, and a surplus of vaccines. This is the opportunity, if we do not get coverage in the next two months we are going to be vulnerable to other things and possibly see more deaths.”
But there are things to be hopeful about, said Dr. Regina Chinso-Kwong — the county Health Care Agency’s Deputy Health Officer — in an interview the same day:
“Our first priority is people 65 and older, because we know they are the individuals who are at higher risk of hospitalization and death, and as of April 11 we actually vaccinated 79.4 percent of people 65 and older — again, that was in April — so we’re probably above 80% currently.
That number is “much higher” than the results of a survey of that population that county officials, weary that vaccine hesitancy would be a problem down the road, conducted in the Fall of last year.
That survey showed that more than half of county residents on average were willing to take the vaccine. But that meant, “in a group of 10 people, six want it and four don’t.”