DES MOINES, Iowa — The change has been dramatic. Eighty of the state’s 99 county health departments declined their full allotment of COVID-19 vaccine, the Iowa Department of Public Health confirmed to WHO 13 on Monday. That’s nearly twice as many counties as the previous week, a sign how widespread decreased vaccine demand now is for the majority of the state.
“It’s a mind shift,” said Devyn Pitlick, Davis County Public Health Public Information Director, who is also marketing and public relations coordinator for Davis County Hospital & Clinics.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that 31.4% of Davis County residents 18 years of age and older have been fully vaccinated against COVID-19. Only Mahaska County’s immunization rate of 30.4% is lower.
Pitlick said the county used to fill vaccination clinics with 120 people. Not any longer. “The last few weeks, it was 60. Then it was 50. Then it was 30,” she said of the sudden drop in demand.
“The phones really stopped ringing off the hook,” which Pitlick said provided staff with momentary relief. “We can breathe,” she said.
But now county health providers are trying to figure out how to convince the hesitant to sign up for a vaccination.
“It’s kind of disheartening,” Lucas County Public Health Nurse Administrator Mary Grismore said of skepticism and conspiracy theories that spread on social media.
Lucas County has the seventh-lowest rate (32.7%) of fully vaccinated adults among Iowa counties, according to the CDC.
She feels misinformation is preventing that from being as high as it could be. “When people don’t listen to the experts, it’s frustrating, Grismore said, “I don’t know how to overcome that.”
Grismore said some residents feel like that researchers didn’t spend enough time making sure the vaccines are safe. They did, according to the Mayo Clinic.
Others still doubt the seriousness of COVID-19. Nearly 6,000 residents have died with the virus over the past year, according to the Iowa Department of Public Health.
“Hopefully, they’ll make an educated decision rather than because of rumors or myths or whatever,” Grismore said.