Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan announced on April 26 that more than 17,000 first-dose vaccine appointments remained unscheduled for the following week. Two days later, on April 28, she once again put out a statement reminding people of the vast amount of vaccines remaining to be distributed. This slowdown in vaccination efforts comes at a time when case rates are reaching a plateau. On April 28, an average of 22 hospitalizations had occurred within the previous seven days in King County, rising from the 12 which had been reported during the week of March 28.
In his weekly press briefing, King County Health Officer Jeff Duchin discussed these figures. “As far as hospitalizations go, they’ve also been increasing since mid-March and our rate is currently 5.8 per 100,000 per week, approximately three times what it was in early March. Over the last seven days, 135 King County residents were hospitalized with COVID-19, which means one person is hospitalized every one hour and 14 minutes in King County.”
Dr. Duchin also discussed barriers that young people face when seeking vaccines. “We know it will take some time to reach all who need or want to be vaccinated in this younger age group. And we know there can be barriers to those who want to be vaccinated including work schedules. We also know that some people who have waited to be vaccinated have done so for a reason and we’ll continue to work to ensure that our community has the information they need to make the best decisions for their health and the health of those around them.”
In response to an inquiry from The Watchdog, Dr. Duchin also discussed how the recent surge might affect college students’ interest in the vaccine. “Younger people are [at a] relatively lower risk for hospitalization and particularly at lower risk for death, [which is] why they might not feel as motivated to be vaccinated as someone who is older and is at a higher risk of getting hospitalized or dying. And I think that that’s a perfectly natural way to think about things,” Duchin acknowledged. “On the other hand, there’s also a community to think about, [and] the vaccines are very safe. And they provide not only a benefit to the person who’s vaccinated, but to everyone, that person comes in contact with. So I do hope that your younger people will understand that there are many reasons to be vaccinated.”
Gail McFarland, Interim Co-Chair and instructor in Bellevue College’s Health and Wellness program spoke with The Watchdog on the issue of vaccine hesitancy. “I think there are a number of factors and I think it goes back to psychology. Rather than actually knowing the science and the reason, in this last year, people have become so educated about preventing spread of diseases, about herd immunity, that type of thing. When it comes to actually doing the vaccine, people are hesitant, and we’re wasting vaccines now.”
When asked, McFarland also had a message for those hesitant about the vaccine: “Nothing in life is without risk. But the risk of getting COVID-19, which is a nasty respiratory infection, is greater than the risk of getting a vaccination.” She reiterated that the impact of vaccination is not limited to an individual, but to their community as well.
“There are much worse consequences for getting the disease not only to oneself, but an individual can take it home, give it to their grandparents, give it to children who might not be sick, and also might spread it around in their communities.” She added, “To avoid one’s personal misery and misery to the rest of the community, the risk of taking the vaccine is very small.”