With only 35 percent of Clark County at least partially vaccinated against COVID-19, the county’s vaccine uptake is already beginning to slow down.
At Wednesday’s Clark County Board of Health meeting, Clark County Public Health Officer Dr. Alan Melnick said he’s concerned about slowly filled or unfilled COVID-19 vaccination appointments.
Just weeks ago, appointments went quickly and were tough to come by. Now the county has seen demand fall so dramatically that it opened the Tower Mall vaccination site in Vancouver to walk-in and drive-thru visitors on Monday and Tuesday, with no advance appointment necessary.
“We’ve got a long way to go to get to herd immunity, if we ever get there,” Melnick said. “But we’ve got all these spots available and people are not showing up.”
What’s happening in Clark County is manifesting on the national level, as well, Melnick said. After weeks of high demand and lower vaccine supply, the U.S. is now encountering more supply than demand.
People 16 and older are now eligible in every state, but it appears that those most eager for vaccination have generally initiated the process, creating a decrease in uptake.
According to stats from April 21, vaccinations dropped off 11 percent in the U.S. from the previous week. That decrease has continued this week, as well, as the U.S. has dropped from a high of 3.3 million vaccine doses administered per day to 2.67 million doses administered per day.
“I think we have a significant population who is not opposed to the vaccine, but not as eager to get it as the folks earlier on,” Melnick said.
The decrease in vaccine uptake is happening during an increase in local and statewide COVID-19 case counts, even though the U.S. experienced a 10 percent decrease in COVID-19 cases from last week.
Clark County’s activity rate continues to rise in all age groups that aren’t 70 and older.
Last week, the county averaged 80 cases per day, up from 69 cases per day the previous week. The county’s COVID-19 activity rate has increased every week since March 15, according to Public Health data.
Clark County Councilor Gary Medvigy suggested having open question-and-answer forums to fight misinformation around vaccination. Medvigy is fully vaccinated and encouraged the public to get the vaccine.
“The greatest barrier we are starting to confront is related to misinformation, poor information, false information about vaccinations,” Medvigy said. “I think we need to do more about having open forums for people who are hesitant to receive these vaccinations.”
Melnick said he thinks there is a fringe segment of the county opposed to vaccination, but noted that he thinks the current issue is that too many barriers to vaccination exist.
Melnick said Public Health is exploring opportunities for mobile vaccine pods to reach people closer to where they live, and is considering eliminating appointments for the Tower Mall site.
The Tower Mall site will also soon offer evening hours for those who can’t get vaccinated during the day, Melnick said.
Melnick said that eliminating appointments earlier this week at Tower Mall, led to viral social media sharing of the notice and an immediate boost in visitors.
“The fewer the barriers, the fewer the hassles, the more likely we are to get more uptake,” Melnick said.