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When the vaccine problem becomes more about demand than supply

Or to put it another way, what are we gonna do with the people who refuse to get vaccinated?

Low vaccination rates in counties that are whiter and more conservative could be impairing Texas’ ability to quickly reach herd immunity for COVID-19.

Texas counties that are poorer, whiter, less-educated and where former President Donald Trump won a larger than average share of the vote have vaccinated a smaller share of their population than the state average, a Houston Chronicle analysis found.

In the 144 Texas counties that meet these criteria, about 28.7 percent of people aged 16 and older have received at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine. Statewide, the average is 32.2 percent.

In Liberty County, fewer than 20 percent of residents have received at least one dose of the vaccine, one of the lowest rates in the state. What’s more, as Harris County residents have begun flocking to rural counties for easier access to vaccines, state data shows that providers in Liberty County — a rural patch between Houston and Beaumont — have put 27 percent more shots in the arms of Harris County residents than they have in residents of their own county

Meanwhile, in the 22 counties where Joe Biden won a majority of the vote — places that tend to be both more diverse and educated — an average of about 44 percent of eligible Texans have received at least one dose of the vaccine.

The vaccination gap between whiter, more conservative counties and the state average may not be cause for concern for the state’s vaccination efforts yet, said Rice University health economist Vivian Ho, but there is a potential for it to widen over the next two to three months.

“As more vaccines become available, that gap is going to widen, because there’s still excess demand for vaccines in our cities, where the majority of the population lives,” she said. “If, for instance, only 50 percent of people in these outlier counties are vaccinated, they will continually be subject to superspreader events that will overwhelm the weakest components of the state’s healthcare infrastructure.”

[…]

Across the state, health officials are searching for ways to reach and vaccinate people who are reluctant to do so.

State health officials are trying to think through the “last mile”, said Dr. David Lakey, a member of the Texas COVID-19 Expert Vaccine Allocation Panel. People who are hesitant to get vaccinated may not go to mass vaccination sites or hubs, but may go to providers they trust.

In Public Health Region 4/5 North — a group of counties in the northeastern part of the state, around Tyler — officials are working with faith-based communities and hosting vaccine fairs to vaccinate more people in the region with the state’s lowest average rate. They have also been conducting home visits as part of these efforts to bring vaccines to homebound people.

Ron Nichols, emergency coordinator for Chambers County, said having well known, local paramedics dole out doses has helped assuage some residents’ concerns. Nichols said demand for vaccines was initially high, but has begun to plateau in recent months because people are either waiting on the single-shot vaccine from Johnson & Johnson, or because of distrust rooted in misinformation.

“There are a lot of people who just don’t understand, don’t know or don’t trust the process,” he said. “The Facebook misinformation machine has been running rampant.”

I suppose there may be fewer Houstonians taking vaccination road trips now that there’s more doses available. Be that as it may, the approach being outlined here makes sense. It’s largely the same strategy that has been advocated and used for communities of color and immigrants, and for the same reason – people trust people they know. It’s more arduous, but it has to be done. It would be nice if more of the state and federal elected officials who represent these areas stepped up and took some of the responsibility for convincing their constituents to get vaxxed, but I’m not holding out much hope for that.

(I am going to attempt to exercise some grace about the hesitancy in these parts of the state, even as we know that lies and propaganda are the main reasons for the fears that many of these folks have, and the risk that their hesitancy may help give rise to a stronger and more vax-resistant strain of the virus. For now, at least. We’ll see where the numbers are in a few months.)

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One Comment

  1. Bill Daniels says:

    https://www.cnn.com/2021/04/13/health/johnson-vaccine-pause-cdc-fda/index.html

    ” (CNN)The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the US Food and Drug Administration are recommending that the United States pause the use of Johnson & Johnson’s Covid-19 vaccine over six reported US cases of a “rare and severe” type of blood clot.
    The six reported cases were among more than 6.8 million doses of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine administered in the United States.

    All six cases occurred among women between the ages of 18 and 48, and symptoms occurred 6 to 13 days after vaccination, according to a joint statement on Tuesday from Dr. Anne Schuchat, principal deputy director of the CDC and Dr. Peter Marks, director of the FDA’s Center for Biologics Evaluation and Research.”

    I’ll just make the same comment I made last time ‘vaccine hesitancy’ was discussed here…..as long as there are plenty of willing takers lining up to get the shots, then attacking people who don’t want it is unproductive, and a waste of effort.

    Say I sell Chevys, and I am able to sell every car I get, as soon as it hits the lot. Why am I going to waste time and advertising dollars on people who only buy Fords? When I start running out of buyers, THEN maybe I should start trying to convince Ford buyers to buy my Chevys. We’re not there yet.

    Beyond that, if the theory is, that Republicans are the ones killing themselves by not getting the shot…..why do you want to stop the enemy when you think they are making a mistake? If the Wu flu is going to be a mass killer of Republicans, while vaccinated Dems all live…..what’s the problem here?