Citing a marked drop in demand for vaccines, Noelle Bissell, the New River District’s health director, said this week during a meeting with news media that the district soon will stop holding large vaccination clinics. It will continue to offer vaccines at its sites and at partner pharmacies.
She said the district is shifting vaccination efforts to smaller outreach events where public health staff can answer questions and help people access the vaccines who may have had trouble previously.
The district’s last large clinic will be held May 18 at Lane Stadium. Bissell said she expects this clinic will provide second doses for most people. People can make appointments for a vaccine through the health district’s website or walk-in to a clinic and doses will be given as supply allows.
“We knew this time would come when the demand [for vaccines] would go down and our supply would be more in line with demand,” Bissell said. “We were ready for that. I think it happened a little bit quicker than people expected. But now is that time to focus on people who may have more questions who are struggling with whether or not to get it.”
About 30 percent of the health district’s population was fully vaccinated as of April 26. The district now is vaccinating anyone age 16 and older. In total, it has given more than 100,000 vaccines.
Bissell said she expects that the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines will be approved for children ages 12 to 16 years old in the next month. The district also is working with area high schools to vaccinate 16- and 17-year-old students.
The district has not yet received supplies of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine though the FDA approved resuming its use after reports of blood clots. After extensive research by the Centers for Disease Control and the FDA, the groups found that the risks of COVID-19 are greater than the risks from the vaccine, Bissell said. She added that the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices, which is an independent group, has given the go-ahead to administer the vaccine.
“That in itself says that there is good confidence that the vaccine is safe,” said Bissell, explaining that people continue to request the Johnson & Johnson vaccine from the district.
As vaccine availability continues to open up, people will be able to choose which vaccine they want, Bissell said. The district will begin posting on its website which vaccines are available at what clinics.
It also will begin posting answers to rumors about coronavirus vaccines on its website as part of a new rumor control page. Right now, answering questions and clearing up misinformation for people who are deliberating about whether to receive a vaccine is paramount, Bissell said.
“No two people can say they have lived this pandemic the same way,” she said. “We need to meet people where they are. We need to acknowledge their questions, their concerns, their fears, their hesitation, and try to educate them the best that we can.”
— Written by Jenny Kincaid Boone