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Vaxxing hesitancy persists despite Health Department’s best shots

With vaccinations in Shelby County slowing from April and May numbers, health department officials continue pleading the case for immunization to those who have resisted being vaccinated.

As they do, the Delta variant continues its spread.

Dr. Bruce Randolph, Shelby County medical director, was vaccinated against COVID-19 in January. (Courtesy photo)

“Our message is still the same, and it is more important than ever before that everyone get vaccinated,” said Dr. Bruce Randolph, medical officer at the Shelby County Health Department.

“The city council recommended that we reinstate the masking mandate, but we were in a different place before the vaccine. We strongly recommend that everyone wear a mask in public places. New cases continue to climb, and that is very concerning.”

Although more than 10,000 vaccinations were reported in the last seven-day report period, ending on Tuesday, Aug. 3, the rising numbers of new daily infections show no signs of letting up.

Officials are especially concerned about the number of pediatric cases causing severe illness among children under the age of 18.

“Of course, these younger victims are of particular concern to us,” said Randolph. “Children under the age of 12 cannot receive vaccinations, so they depend on the adults around them for protection. New infections are occurring in the 18-44 age group. So we are seeing younger and younger COVID-19 victims. These developments are truly alarming.

On Wednesday (Aug. 4), there were 382 new cases reported. The seven-day rolling average of new infections was 447, and the positivity rate skyrocketed to 14.6 percent. There are some 4,383 active COVID-19 cases in Shelby County.

Eight children were reportedly taken to Le Bonheur Children’s Hospital this week. Two remain in critical care; two died over the weekend. The ages of children being hospitalized was not given, but new cases numbers show that teens are especially susceptible in pediatric cases.

Across the nation, 72,000 pediatric cases were added last week, up from 39,000 the week before.

Officials are considering creatively-devised methods to get people to get vaccinated. During a committee meeting on Wednesday, Shelby County Commissioner Van Turner Jr. advanced a proposed spending measure of $673,000 to partner with LeMoyne Owen College, University of Memphis and Leadership Memphis for community health outreach, particularly concentrating on COVID-19.

The health department is continuing door-knocking efforts to convince Shelby County residents to take the vaccine.

Among the particularly recalcitrant, are a number of young, African-American adults.

Cornelius Thomas (Photo: Dr. Sybil C. Mitchell)

Cornelius Thomas, 33, of Memphis said he does not plan to ever take the vaccine.

“Trust of the government is a big issue for me,” said Thomas. “There is definitely some concern with propagation. I don’t believe the media when they say the pandemic is really that bad. And, we all know about the Tuskegee experiment. I don’t foresee changing my mind.”

Keosha Rainer, 34, of Somerville, said she doesn’t plan to take the vaccine either.

Keosha Rainer (Photo: Dr. Sybil C. Mitchell)

“I just don’t feel that it is something I needed to do,” said Rainer. “I did hear that there are more and more pediatric cases being reported. That is a concern, but I’m just not convinced that I need to take the vaccine.”

DeMarcus Pitchford, 24, of Memphis, will not be taking the vaccine because he doesn’t feel information has been clear enough. Pitchford said young social media influencers don’t recommend getting the vaccine, and that has convinced him not to get it.

DeMarcus Pitchford (Photo: Dr. Sybil C. Mitchell)

“First, you hear about something bad happening to some people getting the vaccine,” said Pitchford. “Then you hear it’s good, and everyone needs to take it. When the pandemic first hit, I was in Atlanta. I was there, and then I came here, and I never got sick. So I just feel, “Why bother getting vaccinated? Lots of people on Instagram have not been vaccinated.”

Randolph said health officials will continue working to get everyone vaccinated since most new COVID cases are among those who have not been vaccinated.

Besides area pharmacies and private health providers, vaccines are still available at the drive-thru operation at the Pipkin Building. There is no cost, and appointments are not required. Those being vaccinated receive shots in their vehicle.

 

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