COLUMBIA, MO (KMIZ)
The Cole County Health Department says it's seeing fewer people at its clinic than expected, as many doses are being saved due to the lack of demand.
Cole County Health Department in partnership with other local health systems and hospitals has recently opened a permanent vaccine clinic at the Capital Mall in Jefferson City. The clinic is open Monday through Thursday from 9 a.m. to 3:30 p.m., appointments are encouraged, but the clinic accepts walk-ins.
The clinic has been open to the public for a little over a week now, and the clinic is not seeing the numbers of people that were anticipated.
Cole County Health Department's director, Kristi Campbell, says the clinic has the ability to administer 4,000 doses of the Pfizer vaccine a week, by administering 1,000 doses a day. Last week the clinic only administered around 1,600 vaccine doses.
The clinic is monitoring and only drawing up doses of the vaccine that are actually needed for that day in order to prevent wasting unused doses. Campbell says leftover doses are kept either frozen or refrigerated and used the next day, and the department has lessened the number of doses it's ordering for the clinic.
Campbell says the decrease in demand seen for vaccines has been something that is experienced by health departments and vaccinators nationwide.
Cole County has administered 42,505 vaccine doses as of April 21. 18,522 residents of Cole County have completed the vaccination process, which is 24.1% of the county's population.
Columbia/Boone Department of Health and Human Services, says it's also experiencing a significant decrease in vaccine demand. Sara Humm, the spokeswoman for the health department, says there has not been as high of a demand for the vaccine as it was just a few weeks ago. As many Missourians were struggling to find access to a vaccine dose or appointment, now vaccinators are struggling to fill their appointment books.
"Things looked very different just a few weeks ago, where it was more difficult to get an appointment and our appointments would fill up very quickly, but that's not the case so much anymore, especially after everyone became eligible," said Humm.
Boone County has administered 124,782 vaccine doses as of April 21. 49,182 residents have completed the vaccination process, making up 27.3% of the county's population.
Health officials believe the lack of people coming in to get vaccinated could be linked to a number of reasons behind vaccine hesitancy. Officials say the decline in demand was happening far before the reports of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine's rare blood clots, that stopped the use of the vaccine across the country. JoAnn Martin, the administrator for the Pettis County Health Center, says they've seen a number of people who don't want to get vaccinated at this time.
"I think there's a whole variety of reasons why people are choosing not to be vaccinated. We've heard thing like 'well, I want to wait and see what happens with other people who get it, it was developed too quickly, I'm not too sure about it, and then there's just some people who don't believe in vaccines at all and they're not going to be vaccinated," said Martin.
Martin says the health department hasn't had to order vaccine doses in weeks because of the lack of demand. The health department is working towards trying to vaccinate its harder-to-reach communities. The department has even set up on-site clinics at local businesses and housing authorities to get people vaccinated. The department is planning more events and outreach projects in order to educate and vaccinate more people within the community.
Pettis county has administered 19,691 vaccine doses as of April 21. 8,539 of the county's population has completed the vaccination process, making up 20.2% of the county's population.
The Cole County Health Department is also working towards getting more of the population vaccinated, by working with different outreach organizations. Campbell says the goal is to work with the entire health partner group in Cole County to educate people about the vaccine and the new site.
"We are planning to use the MODHSS vaccine hesitancy outreach campaign that will be released this month. We are also working with our local Doctors and healthcare organizations to provide resources to groups that have vaccine hesitancy or request education," said Campbell.
The Columbia/Boone County Health Department says it has a team within it's department and is also working with other partners to provide education about the vaccine. The department is continuing to set up local clinics in order to reach the population who may find it difficult to get access to a vaccination site.
The department has set up a vaccine clinic at Indian Hills Park on Saturday in order to provide access to the hard-to-reach community, who may have transportation issues getting to a local vaccinator. Humm says this is an opportunity for many to come and get vaccinated as walk-in appointments are welcome.
The Cole County Health Department hopes that the efforts in vaccine outreach will help increase the local demand for the vaccine. Campbell says the declining numbers have not caused an issue for the clinic as of yet, but could in the future.
"At some point, we will have to evaluate the need and decide whether we can continue to staff at the current rate. We may need to reduce the number of days we are open or change the hours of operation,", said Campbell.
As of today, the state has administered 3,504,035 vaccine doses of that 1,480,749 Missourians have completed the vaccination process. Only 34.9% of Missouri's population has started the vaccination process.