State officials working to tackle vaccine hesitancy

ATLANTA — An all-out push is underway to get more people to roll up their sleeves and get the COVID-19 vaccine.

But as more vaccine becomes available, there are a lot of people who are not willing to get it.

Channel 2′s Tom Regan was at the Smyrna Community Center, which has an allotment of 1,000 vaccines. More than 800 appointments have already been taken, but in other parts of the state, there’s less demand.

Only about 17% of the state’s adult population has been vaccinated. Georgia Health Commissioner Kathleen Toomey joined mayors and city leaders from across the state to try to convince those reluctant to get vaccinated.

[SPECIAL SECTION: COVID-19 Vaccine in Georgia]

“There’s still a lot of misinformation, conspiracy theories about where the vaccine came from or what the vaccine will do,” Toomey said. “There’s just a feeling that this is government overreach, if telling me to get vaccinated is more than I want to do.”

Vaccine hesitancy is particularly high in rural parts of Georgia, including northwest and south Georgia. Toomey and other leaders are hoping more people will choose the vaccine in hopes the state can reach a heard immunity level of 70-80% by early summer.

“This COVID-19 virus is not a respecter of color of gender, political party,” Union City mayor Vince Williams said. “This is something we have to truly take seriously.”

[LINK: Where to find the COVID-19 vaccine in Georgia]

Barrett Carter will soon be part of the herd.

“I had some apprehension in the beginning, simply because it was new,” Carter said. “But now, time has passed with relatively few issues. I felt comfortable getting it.”

Crystal Danley, who works at the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention, said she had no second thoughts about getting vaccinated. She got her first shot of the Pfizer vaccine Thursday.

“I think it’s important because we have the opportunity to protect other people to protect ourselves,” Danley said.

Georgia’s positivity rate is currently less than 5%, which Toomey said is good. But it could change quickly because of the fast-spreading U.K. variant, which now accounts for 50% of new cases.

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