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Why do so few in Southern California get updated COVID vaccinations? – Orange County Register

The buds are blooming, the grass is green, the orange trees and palms are swaying – and the spring COVID vaccines are being rolled out again.

This spring, the COVID booster is for people 65 and older and those who are immunocompromised, but we’re especially concerned about staying up to date on these vaccinations. Leading Californians are remarkably undervaccinated: Only 13.7% of Golden Staters are up to date, and that percentage is falling as poverty levels rise.

In Orange County, 12.6% of residents were up to date on their COVID vaccinations, compared to 12% in Los Angeles County, 8% in Riverside County and 6.8% in San County Bernardino.

The highest risk group is people aged 65 and over, so it’s good that this is also the most up-to-date age group. Yet the overwhelming majority of seniors are avoiding getting vaccinated: Statewide, 34.1% of people 65 and older have received the most recent vaccine, compared to 32.2% in County. Orange, 28.5% in Los Angeles County, 26.2% in Riverside County and 24.3%. % in San Bernardino County.

Which give?

“The message from the CDC is horrible,” said Eva Kohn of San Clemente. “Most people think COVID is over. Lately, mRNA vaccines have some issues that may keep potential takers away.

Among them, rare heart problems in young men. She opted for the Novavax vaccine, which is not an mRNA vaccine like Pfizer and Moderna. Novavax is a protein-based vaccine built on older technology; it includes protein fragments from the virus that cannot cause disease, but stimulate the immune system.

Her college-aged children also received the Novavax vaccine, and they have not had COVID this season.

“At this point, people are treating COVID-19 like the flu; there are those who get the flu vaccine every year and then there are the vast majority who do not,” Julie Huniu Nolte said via Facebook. “People no longer view COVID-19 as a major threat. »

Fatigue

There is no doubt that people are experiencing vaccine fatigue, even though the COVID-19 virus is still circulating and is likely here to stay, Dr. Daisy Dodd, an infectious disease specialist at Kaiser Permanente Orange County, said by email. .

“The good news is that hospitalizations and deaths directly related to COVID-19 are low, primarily due to initial vaccinations and herd immunity. Following the pandemic, most people have either been vaccinated or infected with the virus. Nevertheless, it is important that older adults and immunocompromised people receive the COVID-19 booster vaccine at least once a year, as is the case with the flu vaccine, so that their protection remains high.

Andrew Noymer, an epidemiologist and demographer at UC Irvine, blames much of the low participation on the Centers for Disease Control.

“You ask rhetorically: Is COVID just the flu now? he said. “I think most Americans think so. It’s hard to blame them; that’s what the CDC telegraphed. Unfortunately, on a case-by-case basis, COVID is even more deadly than the flu, and it has more serious after-effects. It’s not the flu.

The CDC is systematically downplaying COVID, data dashboards have been dismantled, briefings disrupted and, “Most egregiously, its official directive is not to let a positive at-home COVID test result keep us from going to work or at school, as long as we are. asymptomatic. Because, let’s face it, COVID is not serious,” Noymer continued. “However, some people are advised to renew their vaccines every four months. While new guidance on a vaccination cadence every four months for those 65 and older may make sense in light of data on waning antibodies, it will do nothing to make vaccination easier. Name another vaccine with a four-month cadence; I’ll wait.”

The federal government’s decision to stop purchasing COVID vaccines last year also didn’t help, said Richard Carpiano, a public and population health scientist and medical sociologist at UC Riverside.

“This meant that manufacturers were selling directly to insurers, putting the costs on them,” he said. “This made it more likely that underinsured or uninsured people were less likely to get vaccinated. … Even for those with insurance, this policy change also made it more complicated to get vaccinated when the updated booster became available.

The Biden administration created the Bridge program to cover costs for the uninsured, partnering with providers such as pharmacies and public health departments, he said. This program was launched in September, but disparity data suggests that it is not clear how effective it has been, nor what might be at work (funding targeted campaigns, education, awareness and community clinics).

Skepticism about vaccines in general is on the rise.

“During the COVID pandemic, we were told that vaccines would end the pandemic. When breakthrough infections became apparent in July 2021…the CDC director at the time went to great lengths to emphasize that the breakthroughs are unusual,” Noymer said. “We now know that breakthrough infections are common. ‘Why bother?’ many Americans are asking for it, and the CDC hasn’t made the case that we should care.

Policy

In December, a Gallup poll found that while 47% of adults reported getting a flu shot, only 29% reported getting the new COVID-19 vaccine.

Even though COVID is more dangerous and deadly than the flu. State data shows that:

• As of mid-March, 158 Californians were hospitalized due to COVID. Only 28 of them were hospitalized because of the flu.

• In the first three weeks of March, 138 Californians died from COVID. Only 10 died from the flu.

Public health has unfortunately become politicized.

Nearly half of Democrats (48%) have received the updated COVID-19 vaccine, compared to just 20% of independents and 10% of Republicans. A staggering 82% of Republicans said they wouldn’t get the update.

Flu shots are more popular, but politics is also at work: 61% of Democrats, 38% of independents and 35% of Republicans have gotten a flu shot this year. More than half of Republicans, 52%, said it was crazy.

For what? The top reason people skipped the COVID vaccine was because they had COVID-19 and thought they still had protective antibodies (27%), and because they had concerns about vaccine safety (24%), Gallup found.

The effectiveness of the vaccine was questioned by 18% and 16% said they did not think they would suffer serious health consequences from the coronavirus.

Smaller groups, less than 10%, say they are wary of vaccines in general or worried about an allergic reaction.

FILE - A pharmacist injects a patient with a booster dose of the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine at a vaccination clinic in Lawrence, Mass., Wednesday, Dec. 29, 2021. U.S. regulators have authorized updated COVID-19 boosters, the first to directly target today's most common omicron strain.  The decision taken on Wednesday August 13, 2022 by the Food and Drug Administration modifies the recipe for injections made by Pfizer and its rival Moderna which have already saved millions of lives.  (AP Photo/Charles Krupa, file)
FILE – A pharmacist injects a patient with a booster dose of the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine in 2021. (AP Photo/Charles Krupa, File)

The Orange County Health Care Agency said it continues to monitor COVID-19 vaccination coverage and the CDC continues to find that vaccinated people are much less likely to need emergency care or emergency care. hospitalization.

“Despite clear evidence of effectiveness, we recognize that vaccination coverage rates remain too low,” Dr. Regina Chinsio-Kwong, county health officer, said by email. “Contributing factors include vaccine fatigue, misinformation and difficulty accessing the COVID-19 vaccine. As an agency, we remain steadfast in our commitment to addressing these challenges through continued education and awareness efforts.

“We continue to collaborate with stakeholders such as community organizations, healthcare professionals and the Orange County Immunization Coalition, as well as through social media, to highlight the benefits of COVID-19 vaccination as well as other vaccines. All of these efforts are integral to disseminating accurate information and promoting vaccination.

UCI’s Noymer recommends a book about America’s experience with the 1918 flu, titled “America’s Forgotten Pandemic.” One of the themes discussed is that Americans simply wanted to turn their backs on the whole painful experience. A similar social force is at work here, he said.

“Unfortunately,” he said, “we are throwing the baby out with the bathwater, leading to measles outbreaks. »

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