Routt County ranks high in Colorado for vaccination rates, but hesitancy still looms
At 67%, Routt County ranks sixth highest among counties for the rate of residents being vaccinated.
STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — A tired, groggy feeling, a fever with some chills, muscle pain, headache and feeling nauseous are potential side effects from getting the COVID-19 vaccine.
“That is what I am worried about,” said Steamboat Springs resident Jess Ryan shortly after getting her second dose of the vaccine Sunday. Still, she felt good about getting the shot overall.
While the next few days could be a bit unpleasant, Ryan is now part of the 48% of eligible Routt County residents who have gotten either both doses of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine, or the one-dose Johnson & Johnson shot.
While spring break and the pausing of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine impacted the number of vaccinations in the last few weeks, the demand for the vaccine over the coming weeks will likely determine whether inoculations will reach levels high enough for herd immunity.
Exactly what level of vaccination constitutes herd immunity is somewhat of a moving target, but health experts place it at somewhere between 70% and 85%. Routt County’s Road to Recovery plan would bring restrictions to the lowest level if the county were to reach 75% vaccination among eligible residents.
As of Thursday, the county needs a little more than 2,200 residents to start a vaccination series to be on track to hit that 75% mark.
“If you don’t like our restrictions, and you don’t like mask wearing, get vaccinated,” Commissioner Tim Corrigan said. “That is all you have to do now; if we get enough people vaccinated, we are going to lift all the restrictions.”
When the new plan was put in place, Routt County Public Health Director Roberta Smith said she was confident the county could hit that mark before June 2, when the public health order could be entirely eliminated.
Routt County currently has the sixth-highest percentage among Colorado counties of residents who have gotten at least one dose of the vaccine. There are 11 counties in the state that have more than 60% of residents with at least one dose, while neighboring Moffat and Rio Blanco counties have around 33% of their eligible residents with at least one dose.
The mild side effects of the vaccine Ryan was nervous about is the leading source of vaccine hesitancy, according to a Morning Consult poll conducted last week. Of those uncertain about getting vaccinated, side effects was main reason for 36% of them. Another 29% were concerned about the speed at which the shots were developed.
Colorado as a whole has relatively low unwillingness to get the vaccine, with about 18% of people saying they won’t get a shot, the poll found. Another 14% of Coloradans are uncertain about getting the vaccine.
Young people and those who live in rural areas are two groups of people with higher hesitancy, with around half of them saying they are unwilling to get the vaccine. Overall, 66% of respondents said they have or would get the vaccine.
“Some are reluctant simply because they don’t think it is necessary,” Ryan said about people she knows who are hesitant to get the vaccine. “I do think they think enough people will get it that they will be safe.”
Lyon’s Corner Drug and Soda Fountain Pharmacist Matt Johnson said it is still too early to know how much hesitancy they are seeing, particularly because of spring break when many were out of town. Vaccine numbers have also been affected in part by the pause of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine that ended Friday.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and Food and Drug Administration recommended the restart of the one-dose vaccine after it had been paused April 13. Over the 12 days since the pause, officials have found a total of 15 cases involving a rare blood clot in the brain.
There are no restrictions on the restart of the vaccine, but health officials are saying women under the age of 50 should be aware of the risk of blood clots.
“When you consider the nature of the risk, this is truly a rare event. When you measure that against the benefits of protecting someone from dying of COVID, there is no comparison,” said Dr. Francis Collins, director of the National Institutes of Health in an interview with NBC News on Sunday.
Johnson, who was planning clinics using the one-shot vaccine as it was put on pause, said if health officials were recommending using the vaccine again, that is good enough for him. How much demand there are at clinics in the next few weeks will start to reveal how close the county will be able to get to herd immunity, Johnson said.
“Even if you are a little worried about it, or you think it is silly, well, do it anyway, and then we will get rid of the restrictions,” Corrigan said. “That is the deal that is on the table; I am hoping people take it.”
To reach Dylan Anderson, call 970-871-4247 or email danderson@SteamboatPilot.com.
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