Officials in Orange County, California, are now focusing their inoculation efforts on residents reluctant to receive the vaccine.
The strategy switch comes as the county reports a reduction in demand at its super point of dispensing (POD) sites. Meanwhile, officials said they need to vaccinate about 740,000 more Orange County residents in order to reach COVID-19 herd immunity.
Outreach efforts will include phone calls, text messages, emails, and other public service announcements, Supervisor Lisa Bartlett told The Epoch Times.
Bartlett said that while she has not had any major difficulties vaccinating senior citizens in her district, other districts have. The county will engage some of those communities through door-to-door campaigns, newspaper advertisements, and other outreach programs, she said.
It will bring mobile PODs to underserved communities to ensure local residents have access to the vaccine, Bartlett added.
There were 1,074,201 fully vaccinated people in Orange County as of May 3, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. About 43 percent of Orange County’s adult population is fully vaccinated.
The goal is to vaccinate an additional 740,000 residents to reach an approximate 70 percent herd immunity.
“It’s going to be a major effort because sometimes there are language barriers,” Bartlett said. “So then we have translators, either walking door-to-door or in printed materials in different languages, and this population is more challenging because they’re not just in one area of the county, they’re all over in different pockets of the county.
“We have to identify all those different pockets of where we need to target our focus on education, and it may have to be multilingual.”
Partly due to the amount of vaccine hesitancy, the county’s super POD sites have reported a decrease in appointments. The county is closing its Disneyland super POD and will likely scale back hours of operation on other sites. Its Santa Ana College super POD could be the next one to close, Bartlett said.
Most super PODs now offer same-day appointments due to a drop in patients, Bartlett said, adding that part of the reason is that more people are getting their vaccines at pharmacies.
For now, the county will monitor its super PODs daily to ensure that there’s enough demand.
Another consideration is that vaccine vials contain between five and seven doses, and once a bottle is open, all doses must be used within five hours to avoid going to waste.
Bartlett said some demographics have been more resistant to getting inoculated than others.
“I think the Latinx community and the African American communities have been probably the most challenging,” she said. “And the communities that have a lot of the younger folks between 18 and 30 who think they’re immune to COVID. So it varies in different parts of the county, but I think those may be some of the communities that have been the most challenging.
“This goes back to prior generations of people where for whatever reason, their ancestors, their relatives were afraid of vaccines for various reasons, and that sort of carried forth throughout their family history. And so that is something that we have to try to overcome, because the vaccines of the past are not the vaccines of today, we’ve made great improvements as far as reduction of side effects.”
Orange County Health Care Agency Director Dr. Clayton Chau said that while appointments at super PODs have dropped, the county’s mobile PODs remain popular.
The county is working closely with different cultural groups and churches to get different segments of the population vaccinated, he said.
The county recently held a mobile super POD at a mosque. Chau was present, and said he witnessed a group of six friends leaving a service. They approached the inoculation tent and all were interested in getting vaccinated except for one. His friends eventually convinced him to get the shot, Chau said.
“So I know [the hesitancy] was there,” Chau told The Epoch Times. “We just have to provide the vaccine in an environment that they trust [and] that they feel comfortable with. And so that could be a mosque, or a temple or a church.”
Chau said the county will hold off on fully closing its super PODs because there might be an influx of demand if a lower age group is authorized to receive a vaccine.
“We may be closing down the [super PODs] one or two days a week at first, because I know that there is speculation that the authorizations for children 12 to 15 for Pfizer is expected to be happening soon,” he said. “And so we don’t know what the demand be when [that happens].”
He said the county is also working to educate young adults on the merits of the COVID-19 vaccine.
“We are pushing out information in social media, we’re leveraging immunity material that the state has produced,” Chau said. “I think maybe what we need to do is hold pop-up events where all the youngsters in this age group hang out, at different events that they go to. And so that’s in the works, and I think that will be the most effective way to reach out to them.
“I think going to where they hang out, where they are familiar with, would be a best approach to have an opportunity to really have a conversation with them and get them to be interested in the vaccine.”
Orange County isn’t the only area working on educating those hesitant to take the vaccine. In Los Angeles, a citywide alert went out May 3 to cell phones to remind residents to get a vaccine.