Addressing vaccine hesitancy as California is set to reopen fully

Posted at 5:32 PM, Jun 07, 2021
and last updated 2021-06-07 20:32:16-04

SAN DIEGO (KGTV) – In just eight days, California is set to fully reopen, and part of that is made possible by the continued rollout of COVID-19 vaccines.

The state has one of the lowest COVID-19 case rates in the country. More than 2 million San Diego County residents 12 and older have received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine.

Now, vaccination sites across the county are seeing a steady decline in the number of people lining up to get a shot.

“There’s been a decrease in the demand of vaccines, and that is concerning,” said Dr. Abisola Olulade, family medicine doctor with Sharp Rees-Stealy. Since the vaccine rollout began, Sharp Healthcare has administered nearly 600,000 vaccine doses.

San Diego County’s “triggers dashboard,” which tracks the county’s PPE supply, hospital capacity, community outbreaks, and more, is all green, meaning the health officer’s order will be modified soon. A positive sign that things are looking up.

On Tuesday, we will learn if San Diego County will officially move into the yellow tier, which would give businesses like restaurants, gyms, bowling alleys, and more an opportunity to increase indoor capacity this week, days ahead of the June 15 full reopening date.

But, misinformation is still spreading rapidly, causing some to have real fears of the vaccines.

Olulade has heard it all.

"'The vaccines make you infertile,' there’s absolutely no evidence of that. 'The vaccines change your DNA,' there’s no evidence of that,” she said.

Another myth she’s heard: “We don’t know what’s in the vaccines, but we do – we know exactly what’s in them. Vaccine ingredients are fully listed on the CDC website.”

Olulade worries we could see more problems returning if vaccine hesitancy continues while the state is reopening.

“The virus hasn’t gone away; it’s gotten worse, it’s changed, it’s now more transmissible,” she explained. “If this virus has shown us anything, it’s that it does things we don’t expect it to.”

She said one way to reach those still hesitant is by expanding the vaccine to be offered at primary care offices, although storage is still an issue.

“mRNA vaccines require ultracold storage, so there has to be a shift towards that and providing that in doctors’ offices,” she said. “Primary care physicians are often a trusted person in their lives, where they feel comfortable expressing their doubts and their fears.”

Olulade said having essential conversations and answering real questions directly is likely the best way to get more people on board.

“We need to listen to people and understand their reasons why in a very nonjudgmental way,” she said. “There needs to be better access to information and how to spot misinformation.”