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Douglas County health department shares vaccine hesitancy survey results

Dr. Lindsey Huse also reported a decrease in local COVID-19 cases.
Published: Sep. 14, 2021 at 10:45 AM CDT
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OMAHA, Neb. (WOWT) - The Douglas County Health Director gave an update Tuesday morning on the local COVID-19 response to the Board of Commissioners.

Dr. Lindsay Huse reported an overall decrease in COVID-19 cases: “For the time being, things are looking just a little bit better.”

Cases per 1,000 students in schools have decreased, although only slightly, from 2.9 cases per 1,000 down to 2.8. Hospitals also reported a decrease in bed occupancy percentage, down from the upper-80s to the low-80s. Pediatric ICUs report only 48% occupancy.

Despite the news, one issue remains: “We continue to explore how best to make people feel comfortable with the vaccine.”

A total of 751,503 total doses of COVID-19 vaccines have been administered in Douglas County, but a recent vaccine hesitancy survey has exposed new information.

“In terms of population, 72% of people over 12 have at least one dose and that’s good news,” said Remy Beveridge, Community Data Platforms Project Manager. “But we want to see that continue to rise, it’s just a slow push.”

The recent Douglas County survey recorded over 1,000 responses and reported a variety of concerns relating to the public’s opinion on the vaccines.

“People are concerned about effectiveness, safety, side effects,” Beveridge said. “Concerned they’re being used to test the vaccine.”

The survey also reports that 75% of the vaccine-hesitant population gets COVID-19 news from online news sources, 39% from TV, and 20% from social media.

Vaccine-hesitant populations reported their trust lies in their doctors, family, friends, and internet searches. When surveyed whether or not the hesitant population would receive the vaccine today if available — only 2% responded yes, 50% no, would prefer to wait, and 47% responded with no, never.

Beveridge also said that: “Most families tend to get all or none of their children vaccinated, typically not judging on a child to child basis.”

Parents are also typically more hesitant about the vaccine. The survey reports that “parents are about two times as likely to be concerned with the effectiveness of the vaccine,” compared to non-parents.

The county will now use the information from the study to help better educate all residents.

“You see that the safety and side effects seems to be on the top all the time so how do we get that message out to those folks about the vaccine being safe and the minimal side-effects?” said Mary Ann Borgeson, Douglas County Commissioner for Dist. 6.

Booster vaccinations in Douglas County

There will be more booster vaccine information available later this month but Dr. Huse speculates those will be provided to the most vulnerable populations.

“I anticipate people in high-risk categories will have first access to boosters, that’s just what we’ve heard so far,” Huse said.

The health department expects to get more information around Sept. 20, after an advisory committee meeting later this week.

Breakthrough cases

Of the vaccinated population, there have been over 2,400 breakthrough cases in Douglas County, and there have been deaths in a few breakthrough cases.

“We’ve had a few, some over the past couple of week,” Dr. Huse said. “Those cases were individuals that would have likely not had immune systems that probably processed the vaccine very well. They were older, probably had waning immunity, also had numerous underlying factors that could have prevented their immune system from developing full immunity.”

Watch the Health Director’s full livestream report:

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