MONTEREY COUNTY — Medical professionals from area hospitals discussed progress toward quelling the Covid-19 pandemic during Monterey County’s press briefing last week.
Among the guest speakers at the May 19 briefing was family practice physician Dr. Joshua Deutsch from Mee Memorial Healthcare System, who spoke about vaccine hesitancy.
More than 15,000 people have been vaccinated at Mee Memorial clinics in King City and Greenfield over the three months that vaccines have been available, according to Deutsch.
“Our vaccination rates in Greenfield and King City are around 62%, which is consistent with the rest of the county,” Deutsch said. “Normally the expectation is in South County we would be doing worse, but we’re doing the same as the rest of the county.”
Deutsch noted there are other counties with higher vaccination rates, such as some in the San Francisco Bay Area, but that Monterey County is on par with or exceeding the efforts of a majority of California counties. The remaining 38% yet to be immunized and figuring out their reasons for not having been vaccinated yet were what Deutsch used his physician perspective to evaluate.
“From my experience in South County, none of the vaccine hesitancy comes from ideological opposition to science or opposition to the basic science of the coronavirus to spread infectious disease or any far-out conspiracy theories … which are very common and prominent in many areas of the country,” Deutsch said.
Rather, convenience or waiting to speak to a doctor have been the key reasons for delay, according to Deutsch. He shared that people might come into the office with concerns about diabetes or high blood pressure and a need to speak with him about whether the vaccine is safe and whether they should take it.
“The answer is of course you should,” Deutsch said.
The reason for looking into the hesitancy has to do with increased immunization to the point Covid-19 is no longer a public threat.
“We want to get up to that 85% that’s recommended and likely to cause herd immunity,” Deutsch said. “To me, that’s getting and meeting people where they’re at.”
He said outreach efforts to talk to residents about vaccine science would take going to schools and other places where they regularly attend, as well as having more vaccination opportunities in doctor’s offices.
Overall, Deutsch spelled out a strategy for meeting those who didn’t jump at the earlier opportunities when vaccines were available.
“I think most of these people, if we make it convenient, will get vaccinated,” he said. “There’s a huge social benefit in us investing the resources in getting these people, and some of them just need better access to the information. They need to hear from their doctor.”
On Thursday, the state of California announced a vaccine incentive program, “Vax for the Win,” during which those who have been vaccinated will be entered for a chance to win either $50,000 or the grand prize of $1.5 million.