In parts of rural Michigan, the vaccine may be free, but it is harder to sell - Detroit Free Press
May 08, 2021 5 mins, 42 secs

"I have not taken it, and I will not take it," said Johnson, 33, of Monroe.

Johnson is among a contingent of people living in stretches of rural Michigan who are refusing coronavirus immunizations at a time when health officials say they are needed to stomp out the still-burning embers of the pandemic.

It's vaccine hesitancy, skepticism or, in some cases, downright refusal to get shots that have been hailed as the key to safely emerge from our coronavirus cocoons and return to some semblance of normal that's fueling a new health crisis, they say. .

Although about 54% of Michiganders ages 16 and older have gotten at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine as of Friday — about 4.4 million people — far lower rates of vaccine uptake can be found in some rural areas of the state. .

Without witnessing the devastation that hit urban and suburban parts of the state hard in the last 15 months, there may be less of an urgency to take the vaccines, said Derusha, who also is the director of the Luce, Mackinac, Alger and Schoolcraft County District Health Department in the Upper Peninsula. .

"I have been in very close contact with people that have had it," she said.

State health officials prioritized vaccines for people who live and work in those facilities, and saw quick impact. Since February, COVID-19 deaths in long-term care facilities have plummeted. .

Bob Riney, president of health care operations and COO of Henry Ford Health System, said overcoming vaccine hesitancy all over the state is the only way to get ahead of more contagious variants and stop the spread of the virus. .

You know, I thought the people that took the shots experimentally a year ago ...

And we don't know how this all started.

have gotten at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine under what the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says is "the most intense safety monitoring in U.S.

The Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine underwent a safety review in April. .

"For those of you that are still hesitant or have made up your mind that you're not getting a vaccine, know that you are 25 times more likely to get COVID," Henry Ford's Riney said.

Derusha said public health officials are trying to get the message out to younger people, especially, who don't think they are at risk for severe illness and death from the virus.

"We're doing our best to try to reach out to those folks to try to provide them information, to try to encourage them, let them know that these vaccines are the best tools that we have to help us put the pandemic behind us," Derusha said.

Johnson & Johnson's vaccine came soon after. .

Since other vaccines and treatments have historically gone through lengthier approval processes, she said she is in no rush to get a COVID-19 vaccine. .

The region has seen a drop in the number of people who are signing up for vaccine clinics in recent weeks, said Kevin Hughes, the health officer for the District 10 Health Department, which serves Mecosta and Newaygo counties as well as eight other rural counties. ?

In Hillsdale, a historically conservative county with among the lowest vaccine uptake rates where 35.5% of residents have gotten a single dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, Jim Hubbard tries his best to get the word out that doses are free, and easy to get. .

He's an assistant pharmacist at the Walgreens store on West Carleton Road, and said he offers to give people shots when they come to pick up their prescriptions. .

"If they're definite that they don't want it, you let it go

About 10 people a day get shots in the store, Hubbard said, which has both Moderna and Johnson & Johnson doses available

Some people don't want to wait

"I didn't think twice about it," Jackson said of the vaccine. "I took the smallpox vaccine, and the one for polio

"I don't know if I will recover or not," he said

"My opinion is, I'm scared," she said of the vaccines

There's other things that there's no vaccine for that have been around for years, and, obviously, the media puts a scary spin on everything, so I don't know what to believe."

She said she might get immunized some day, but "not anytime soon. If other people I know get it and say, 'Hey, it worked,' I might think about it

"My dad has gotten it, but people my age, I don't know anybody who's gotten it."

But convincing people who don't want to get the shots is a steep hill to climb. 

Although some have speculated that the region's low vaccination rates could be attributed to residents crossing the border into Ohio and Indiana to get their shots, which haven't been recorded in the state's vaccine registry, Burns said there's no way to estimate how big of a role that might play. 

"I don't have any information at this point that would make me think that's very impactful here," she said, "but I certainly think that some of that did occur."

State health officials have urged Michiganders who got COVID-19 vaccines out of state to bring their vaccine cards to their doctors so they can be registered and counted in the Michigan registry. 

"I don't get sick that often," said Hedtke, 42, "and I just don't feel like I need it

To be honest with you, I've heard other people that have been getting it, they're getting symptoms after they have it, and I don't want to be sick."

"I don't want those aches and pains that everybody says they get and all that crazy stuff," said Hedtke, who lives in a county where the rate of vaccine uptake for first doses is lower than any other county in the state at 33.6%. 

She lives just outside of Dowagiac and said she doesn't want to take the vaccine, either.  

"I don't really want to get it," Benson said, adding that one thing that might change her mind is the prospect of traveling to visit friends early next year

She was laughing and talking, and announced she'd gotten her first dose of a COVID-19 vaccine earlier that day. 

She rubbed her left arm, and said: "I got my first dose today at the Walmart in Paw Paw."

She said she's glad she waited until early May to get her first dose of the Moderna vaccine

A health care worker, she said she has seen the impact COVID-19 has had on the community and doesn't want to see hospitals fill up again with sick coronavirus patients. 

"I don't know yet," she said. 

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