Pennsylvania’s top doctor discusses reluctance to vaccinate | Health


Top doctor in state says Pennsylvania Department of Health is tackling COVID-19 vaccine reluctance.

“We recognize that some people are reluctant to get vaccinated, but we are working to educate people about vaccines and respond to that reluctance,” Acting Chief Medical Officer Dr Denise A. Johnson said during a roundtable on virtual media on Thursday.

The Wolf administration launched the PA Unites Against COVID media campaign to deliver messages that appeal to the unique motivations and hesitations of each community.

“We have worked with local county leaders, influencers, health professionals (and) trusted messengers to ensure our efforts represent the diversity of the communities we serve and provide the hyperlocal approach to address concerns. from anyone regarding the vaccine, ”Johnson said. .

“The message we want all residents to know is that there are safe and effective vaccines. Vaccines are the best way to protect you and your loved ones from the virus and bring us back to the life we ​​had and missed, before the pandemic. “

Johnson said the state’s Department of Health continues to engage with minority and rural populations to make it easier for people to access vaccines and address issues of hesitation.

“As a state, we are constantly looking at immunization rates and also looking at them by demographic group. So when we see areas under-vaccinated, we make sure to increase the resources of that community to make sure we catch up with those rates, ”she said.

“We saw that in some areas where African Americans were less immunized over time, we had higher immunization rates in those areas as a result of these efforts.”

According to the Department of Health’s Vaccine Dashboard, 43.9% of African Americans in Pennsylvania have received at least one dose of the vaccine. This percentage does not include vaccines administered in Philadelphia County.

The Ministry of Health has partnered with local organizations, civic groups, businesses and places of worship to organize pop-up vaccination clinics.

Johnson and his colleagues have traveled statewide to promote immunization clinics and discuss fairness and reluctance with vaccines.

She acknowledged that the Department of Health had learned key lessons during the pandemic.

“We’ve learned that we really have to meet people where they are,” Johnson said. “We need to know where our patients are and understand the limitations they have in getting to places where we think they should be vaccinated.”

As a certified obstetrician and gynecologist, Johnson is concerned about the low vaccination rate among pregnant women.

She said women who contract COVID-19 during pregnancy have a higher risk of going to the intensive care unit.

“Unfortunately, less than a third of pregnant women have been vaccinated and we know that in the African American community that number is probably more among adolescents and also in the Hispanic community and we know these communities are more affected.” Johnson said. noted. “It is therefore urgent that more pregnant women get vaccinated. “

In September, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued an alert to increase vaccination for people who are pregnant, recently pregnant, or may become pregnant. The CDC noted that there are higher risks of serious illness or death for women who contract COVID-19 during pregnancy and an increased risk of pregnancy and adverse newborn outcomes.

Johnson said it’s important for people to understand how COVID-19 vaccines work, especially given concerns about groundbreaking cases.

“Vaccines are not like a force field that can prevent the virus from reaching you,” Johnson explained.

“When the virus gets to you, the antibodies in your body will kill that virus. So people who have been vaccinated and who end up getting infected are much, much less likely to be hospitalized and much less likely to die. “

“The vaccines work,” she continued. “They work as they are designed, so getting the vaccine protects you against this virus, even with the delta (variant) that we have.”

Johnson also addressed concerns people may have about booster shots.

“We want to remind everyone that the main strength of your vaccine is still working extremely well,” she said. “There are certain populations that may have a bit of a decline in their immunity over time and that is why boosters are recommended for some.”

The CDC has recommended that people over the age of 65, living in a nursing home, or between the ages of 50 and 64 and who have an underlying health condition that puts them at risk, receive a booster.

“The recommendation for the boosters is to get a booster of the vaccine you had before if it’s available,” Johnson explained. “If it’s not available, you can get another kind of vaccine. “

The Department of Health notes that 91% of COVID-19 cases reported in Pennsylvania and 93% of COVID-19-related deaths were in people who were unvaccinated or not fully vaccinated.

More than 13 million vaccines have been administered in Pennsylvania, according to the Department of Health.

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