PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — At the beginning of the COVID-19 vaccine rollout, health officials were getting vaccines to the elderly and eager who were willing to drive hours to get a shot. Now that they’ve gotten through that population, health leaders are targeting a different younger group of people with convenience.
Clark County Public Health Officer Dr. Alan Melnick said there is a drop off in vaccination rates and unfilled appointments at both large and small vaccination clinics.
That’s why walk-ins and drive-ins are allowed in Southwest Washington. Melnick said that alone has resulted in hundreds more people getting vaccinated.
“I think for many of people in that group, they’re not opposed to vaccines. It’s just not a priority for them. So, they’re not going to go out of their way to make appointments,” Melnick said. “If any barrier that’s put up is going to make it very difficult for those folks to get vaccinated.”
Doctors can offer it at normal primary care check ups. Melnick said they’re looking at making more vaccine sites at schools in an effort to reach BIPOC communities who may not have an easy time getting an appointment.
And he said employers can also help reduce barriers by allowing people the necessary time off.
Vaccines work — and work when we do it together
At this time, 38.7% of Clark County residents received their first dose. But looked at by eligibility, that is actually 48.6% of those 16-and-older.
There are 27.4% who are fully vaccinated, but looked at from the eligible population, it’s 34.5%/
Dr. Melnick is worried about large clusters of people who collectively choose not to get vaccinated continuing the transmission and chances for the virus to mutate, similar to the measles outbreak in Clark County in 2019.
“If you think about the turn of the 19th Century, when communicable diseases were the number one cause of death in the United States, and some of those were vaccine-preventable illness, and we’ve been able to conquer that – only to come to 2020 – when COVID-19 was right up there with heart disease and cancer as the top three causes of death, and then people unwilling to get the vaccine, this is what keeps me up at night,” he said.
The biggest challenge in health care is preventing disease, he said. People take medication with serious side effects when they’re sick and don’t want to die, but it’s harder to convince someone who isn’t sick to prevent an illness.
The only way vaccines truly work at eradicating disease, he said, is if everyone does it together.
And since everyone has done it before — which is why we don’t have polio, tuberculosis, hepatitis B, measles, mumps, rubella, tetanus, yellow fever — he hopes we can do it again.