As COVID vaccine access grows, demand for shot decreases, health officials say

PHILADELPHIA (WPVI) -- Access to the COVID-19 vaccine is expanding, but some local officials are finding that demand is actually going down. The focus is now on education and encouragement for people to get their shot.

A two-day drive-thru vaccination clinic at Mercy Fitzgerald Hospital in Darby is being hosted by health officials in Delaware County as cases rise.

"We have seen an increase in incidence rate, that's how many per 100,000, and in the in four weeks it has doubled," said Rosemarie Halt, the director of the Delaware County COVID Task Force.

The county is seeing a dip in vaccine interest with 54% of people being at least partially vaccinated. They aren't the only ones.

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"We did such a good job messaging, 'wait your turn' that a lot of folks are still waiting their turn. We just have to help get the word out: 'It is your turn.' Come down to get vaccinated," said Charlie Elison with FEMA.

Some residents, like Delaney Dearing of Manayunk, have no plans to get vaccinated.

"Well, with the recent news about all the blood clotting, I'm a little bit worried about that," said Dearing.

The topic of vaccine hesitancy was discussed by Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf during an update in Northern Pennsylvania Wednesday.

"Getting vaccines is a game changer. It really makes a big difference. It makes it safer for us to be able to address this disease," said Wolf.

He's also hopeful their plan of getting the vaccines to a bigger network of providers, like family physicians, can help.

"People need to see someone they trust to suggest that they get the vaccine, so we're working on that," said Wolf.

In order for the state to fully reopen, they're looking for a certain percentage of Pennsylvania residents to be vaccinated.

"Around 65% to 70% of the population getting both doses. Two weeks after that you have herd immunity," said Wolf.

Currently, nearly 44% of eligible Pennsylvanians have at least had the first dose.

There aren't many lines at the FEMA-run clinic in Center City Philadelphia or at the Esperanza site. Appointments are available and walk-ins are welcome. Any Philadelphian 16 and older is eligible for a Pfizer shot.

Now the rush is on to encourage people to sign up. About 38% of eligible Philadelphians have received one dose of the shot and another 25% are fully vaccinated.

Congresswoman Mary Gay Scanlon recently co-signed a letter to the federal government asking to turn Lincoln Financial Field into a mass vaccination site.

"The fact that it is at an intersection, interstate highways, public transportation, it joins a lot of different areas. It seems like a good regional site," said Scanlon.

The Philadelphia Health Department says there are no plans as of now to convert the stadium into a vaccination site.

In Montgomery County, they don't have that problem, with almost 45% of the population vaccinated.

"Next week, we have 7,000 appointments available and have all but 400 or 500 filled," said County Commissioner Dr. Val Arkoosh.

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Access to the COVID-19 vaccine is expanding, but some local officials are finding that demand is actually going down. The focus is now on education and encouragement for people to get their shot.



Every county is now focused on Friday's CDC advisory panel decision about the Johnson & Johnson vaccine pause.

Montgomery County is already preparing to begin administering the one-shot option again.

"We have people scheduled in J&J clinics beginning next Wednesday," said Dr. Arkoosh.

Vaccine hesitancy and accessibility is the next hurdle to jump in the race toward herd immunity. Each county is focusing its attention on public education campaigns and community outreach.

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