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A return to normal depends on COVID-19 vaccinations

My brother was involved in a drive-by shooting recently.

Now, before I get too far, here: The drive-by shooting was part of a mass immunization effort that occurred near the community outside of Pittsburgh where he resides. While the organizers of the event had hoped for nearly 4,000 local participants, the actual turnout was much smaller.

The mass inoculation effort serves as an example of what health officials are facing as they race to try and make immunization shots available to everyone. In the case of my brother, the inoculation effort he participated in was originally to have involved the Johnson and Johnson vaccine. However, on April 13, just days before the event was to occur, the vaccine was paused by officials with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

In his instance, organizers of the clinic — a health network in that area — quickly pooled their resources from around western Pennsylvania and came up with enough Pfizer vaccines to still hold the event.

But, as evidenced by the original hopes and the end result, the numbers of people seeking vaccinations were not as anticipated.

It was a sad reality of what any negative news surrounding vaccines right now can do to the public’s trust.

And it is not just in Pennsylvania, nor does it only involve the Johnson and Johnson vaccine. The same scenario is being played out across the U.S. right now, and involves all the COVID-19 vaccinations, not just one.

Earlier this week, District Health Department No. 4 officials said they expect to scale back their mass vaccination efforts in the weeks ahead because of lower attendance of those seeking a vaccine.

This week, any American 16 or older is now eligible to receive a vaccination. While that is great news, it is confusing to me why more residents are not taking advantage of the opportunities to receive a vaccination.

Until the majority of Americans are vaccinated, the threat of COVID-19 remains in our daily lives.

Officials with the CDC said that, as of this week, 32% of adults are fully vaccinated, and more than 50% of the U.S. adult population has received at least one vaccine dose.

While those numbers are encouraging, they still highlight the fact that we as a country still have a long way to go.

In Michigan, about one-third of adults 16 or older have been vaccinated, according to Gov. Gretchen Whitmer earlier in the week. MidMichigan Medical Center-Alpena President Chuck Sherwin was much more optimistic in a newspaper story, when he estimated 70% of seniors 65 and older in the region are now vaccinated.

Regardless of the percentage, everyone understands there still is a reluctance by many toward the vaccinations.

“I think there is a proportion of the population that are choosing not to be vaccinated,” said Emma Vieregge, the emergency preparedness supervisor with District Health Department No. 4 to reporter Crystal Nelson this week.

State residents need to understand that, as we try to return as quickly as possible to a more normal lifestyle in a manner that is safe for everyone, vaccinations play a key role toward making that happen. In truth, health officials now need to design a new strategy to reach those people who thus far have not been able to be immunized.

While there was some hope earlier in the week that state numbers were very slowly starting to decline, the fact remains that, for the past several weeks, the state has led the country in the number of COVID-19 cases. That reality has resulted in everything from disrupted classroom learning again to voluntary pauses in things like indoor dining.

Those realities concern me as I — like you — covet a return to a more normal lifestyle in the weeks and months ahead.

I am elated to be fully inoculated from my two does of the vaccine. I wish the same for everyone.

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