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1 in 4 people in Onslow County are already not willing to get a vaccine, health officials fear that could rise

Recent news about the Johnson & Johnson vaccine has health officials trying to figure out how to tamp down fears and rising hesitancy about getting a vaccine at all.
Published: Apr. 15, 2021 at 7:15 PM EDT
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ONSLOW COUNTY, N.C. (WITN) - Vaccine hesitancy is already at an alarmingly-high level, according to health officials, and recent news about the rare, but severe, side effects from the single-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine have them fearing it could get worse.

“It’s part of our duty as the health department to go and do further education,” said Onslow County Health Director Spokesperson Victoria Reyes. “And we have been doing that.”

About 24% of people in Onslow County have said they are not interested in getting a COVID-19 vaccine, tied for the highest rate of vaccine hesitancy in the state. Jones and Lenoir Counties are close behind with about a 22% rate.

“Building vaccine confidence and increasing access to vaccinations is central to our efforts to put this pandemic to bed,” said White House COVID-19 Response Coordinator Jeff Zients during an informational update about the pandemic Wednesday.

But that national effort is facing a severe setback, with a pause on administration of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine because of just six known cases of blood clots, from which at least one woman has died.

A committee examining the side effects extended the pause citing the need for additional information. The side effects are incredibly rare, one in a million people who have received the vaccine have seen the blood clots, but health officials say they are common enough that more information on how to treat them is needed.

“What was put into place the V-Safes and these other ways to recognize any symptoms you may be having that were out of the ordinary are working,” said Reyes. “We put those in place to make sure that we catch this, we move on it and we could make accommodations and recommendations.”

But still, health officials worry it could mean a set-back in progress in convincing people to get the vaccine. They’re doubling-down on their message that every vaccine on the market is both safe and effective.

A study from the University of Oxford backs that up, saying you are more likely to catch a severe case of COVID-19 if you don’t get the vaccine than you are to develop a blood clot if you do.

“I think it would be a different story when we weren’t getting the vaccine in,” said Reyes. “But now, we have more providers vaccinating, so there are more options.”

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