Highland County Health Commissioner Jared Warner said this week that local residents who have not been vaccinated by now must not want to be.
“I think at this point, if they don’t have one (a vaccine), it’s because they’re not interested,” Warner said Wednesday in his office at the Highland County Health Department.
Warner detailed some of the factors involved in why people in the county might decide to not get vaccinated. One of those is that “there is a general distrust in the government with a lot of our population.” Another factor he highlighted was vaccine safety, in terms of whether it was made in the right way and went through all of the normal vaccine testing.
Warner said that while the process for producing vaccines was shortened, that process didn’t skip any steps in terms of safety. The government, as he said, started mass production earlier than it normally would, but still did all of the safety steps required to make sure the vaccines were able to be used.
“We took a big, long, process and folded it in half,” he said.
He also said “there’s some people” who still don’t think COVID-19 is real and is a manufactured crisis.
Speaking toward those people, Warner said he has talked to families that have lost loved ones that know the virus is real whether they want to believe it or not.
For those who still don’t think the virus is that big of a deal, he said that even though it has a low fatality rate of 0.2 or 0.3 percent, in a state with over 11 million people, that’s still a lot of people.
“When we have a health care system that’s designed around near-capacity all the time, it doesn’t take a whole lot to overwhelm that,” Warner said. “It is something we need to take seriously. It is a real virus and I just have trouble understanding why there’s that sense of denial that that’s even something we should be concerned about.”
Warner said what the health department is seeing in Southwest Ohio, especially in some of the rural counties in the area, is that there was a lot of interest in vaccines to start, with full clinics to point that now there is little to no one showing up at some clinics. He said to try and get more people vaccinated, the health department is going to try and remove barriers between people and getting the vaccine.
The aim to get as many people vaccinated as possible has extended to the health department’s new Care-A-Van, and it being used as a mobile vaccine around the county. It completed its first round Wednesday, visiting the Rocky Fork Lake area and Marshall. Next Wednesday, April 28, it will visit Buford, Pricetown and Allensburg.
“So really making it convenient, easy and accessible is important,” Warner said. “I don’t know that there’s a whole lot more that we can do as a health department. It really comes back to the community as a whole and are enough people in Highland County going to be interested in this to put us in the same level of the state? I just don’t think that’s likely to happen… The fastest way for us to get back to normal, protect our high-risk groups, to protect our health care system and to get past Covid, is to get people vaccinated.”
Warner said that in terms of current cases, the county has two known cases of the B.1.1.7 UK Variant in the county and that the variant is now the predominant strain in the country, according to the CDC. He said it’s “anywhere between 50 and 100 percent more infectious” and seems to cause more severe illness, but he didn’t have a percentage of how much more severe.
However, he said a problem in Highland County and across the state is that there isn’t a robust surveillance system that identifies the strains with the cases, meaning the county can’t tell how much of the newer variant the state is seeing compared to the old one.
“It is interesting when you look at Southwest Ohio, the three counties with the poorest vaccination rates are the three counties that are currently having the most consistent case increases,” Warner said.
He said that he would ask people to “hang on a little bit longer” with their precautions because of Covid cases spiking in Michigan and the northern parts of Ohio. He said people should focus on continuing to: social distancing, wash their hands, stay home if they’re sick, and wear a mask when they’re with other people.
“It’s a hard message to sell because the sun is, well, not today, but the sun is shining and the grass is green underneath the snow and people are ready to get back to normal,” Warner said. “I want to also, but we just got to hang on a little bit longer so that we are well-positioned if we do have some case spikes that come through.”
Reach Jacob Clary at 937-402-2570.