Amid dropping demand for shots, S.C. officials urge more people to get vaccinated

Published: Apr. 22, 2021 at 9:01 AM EDT
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COLUMBIA, S.C. (WIS) - The CDC reports that the rate of COVID-19 shots going into arms across the country has decreased, and officials warn that South Carolina is seeing a similar trend.

“We are concerned about slowing demand because we can and we must reduce the number of deaths, hospitalizations, and new cases if we are going to get out of this pandemic,” Assistant State Epidemiologist Dr. Jane Kelly said. “The best way to do that is via the vaccine. The other issue is the more people delay getting vaccinated, you know folks who want to get vaccinated but they don’t feel urgent about it right now, is the more we delay the more opportunity the variants have to spread.”

Kelly said part of the problem is vaccine hesitancy.

She said that reasons for hesitancy range from emotional reasons surrounding lack of trust and misinformation to physical barriers, like having to work.

“Vaccine hesitancy is complex,” Kelly said. “There are many people who take time to move from contemplation to action and we need to address what their reasons are for that wait and see contemplation step. For some, it’s practical questions like can I take time off from work to get vaccinated?”

As of Wednesday, 39.8% of South Carolinians had received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine. That percentage falls short of the 80% experts say need to be vaccinated to achieve herd immunity.

“It is still a challenge, we are still on this treadmill to get there with getting herd immunity,” Kelly said.

Mass vaccination sites in South Carolina, like the one at Columbia Place Mall, are seeing lower numbers than expected.

“We can have these all day long we can have this run all year long, it doesn’t matter if people aren’t showing up to this or maybe to an appointment they set up with their provider,” Brandon Lavorgna with SCEMD said. “If they’re not getting the shot in the arm it will not matter.”

Health experts believe the lack of demand could give dangerous coronavirus variants the opportunity to continue to mutate. It could also delay the country’s return to a semblance of normalcy.

“The more people get vaccinated, the fewer infections there will be, which means fewer variants will emerge, and fewer breakthrough infections will occur and the quicker we can get back to doing the things we love,” said Dr. Rochelle Walensky, the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Health officials want citizens to know that the shot is safe and they are doing what it takes to make the process more convenient.

“You can get in and out of here in 30 minutes. We can handle up to a thousand folks a day, it’s open from 7 a.m. until 7 p.m. to accommodate people’s work schedules,” Jennifer Hart, a nurse at the mass vaccination site, said. “They have intentionally put it close to a bus line, close to an interstate to try to make it as successful as possible.

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