WEST MICHIGAN - As the demand for the COVID vaccine dwindles across the country, health leaders in Michigan are working to get the word out that there are vaccines available. Dr. Liam Sullivan is an infectious disease specialist at Spectrum Health. He says to reach herd immunity, more people need to get vaccinated.
"I would please encourage people, don't think that they're not safe. They are very safe they are working very very well, they are standing up just as well as they did in the clinical trial in the real world," says Dr. Sullivan. "The concept of herd immunity is that a lot of people out there think that we should let the infection burn through the population to reach herd immunity. Well, there's been some countries in the world that have tried that and I think you can look no further than Sweden. Sweden started they tried to that and had somewhat of a success in the beginning, but now they're having big problems and they have a huge COVID outbreak in the population in Sweden and they have one of the highest per capita rate of COVID infection in Europe."
The medical director at the Kent County Health Department, Narali Bora says vaccine hesitancy we are seeing among West Michiganders is happening because some people want to wait and see how others will react to getting the vaccine. But she says that waiting to get the vaccine, puts everyone in the population at risk of getting very sick from the virus.
"The vaccine is absolutely important to protect yourself, we are seeing young, healthy people get very sick, young healthy people die even in Kent County," says Bora. "Number one, it just protect yourself that you that you are protected, you feel better about going out, seeing friends, seeing family, eventually going to restaurants all of these things and it gives you that personal satisfaction so that you can live the life that you want to live."
Across social media, the Kent County Health Department has started a campaign using the #SleevesUp, and they are asking everyone in Kent County who gets the vaccine to share 'why' they chose to get vaccinated with their family, friends and the community.
"We really want people to know other people's stories of why they're choosing to get the vaccine, and we're hoping that might inspire them to go head and get the vaccine on their own," says Steve Kelso, communication director at KCHD.
And while many vaccines are still being administered across West Michigan, the health department says the demand has significantly fallen off. Now, they are looking to recent polls for answers.
A recent poll from Quinnipiac University shows the political divide over the vaccine in the United States. 45 percent of Republicans say they do not plan to get a COVID-19 vaccine right now, that's compared to 27 percent of Americans overall.
Now, doctors are calling on the GOP leaders in Michigan to encourage their supporters to wear masks and get vaccinated.
And in West Michigan, medical leaders are standing by to your answer questions about the vaccine.
"If you've got questions, please ask questions. No question is a dumb one, the only dumb ones are the ones you don't ask," says Dr. Sullivan. "Reach out to healthcare providers, to family and friends who have been vaccinated. We are happy to answer your questions."
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