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CDC, SWHD concerned with vaccination rates among young people

The Southwest Health District (SWHD) said it’s struggling to get people under 40 vaccinated for...
The Southwest Health District (SWHD) said it’s struggling to get people under 40 vaccinated for COVID-19.(AP)
Published: Apr. 18, 2021 at 3:05 PM EDT
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ALBANY, Ga. (WALB) - The Southwest Health District (SWHD) said it’s struggling to get people under 40 vaccinated for COVID-19.

SWHD Director Dr. Charles Ruis said they’re trying to work with colleges and are on social media and at places that age group visits frequently.

They’re working to change vaccine hesitancy.

Ruis said 20% of people who are under the age of 44 have been fully vaccinated in Dougherty County.

“We’re going to focus a lot of energy and time going forward in trying to persuade younger people to better understand what a threat this is to our community,” said Ruis.

He said in many cases, younger people aren’t getting vaccinated because they feel invincible.

“They feel like if they get sick from COVID, it may not be any severe outcome for them and they may be correct in that regard, however, in order to control the virus, we need the majority of the population to develop immunity,” said Ruis.

During the CDC’s visit to Albany, Dr. Neetu Abad said a woman in that age group made the decision to get the vaccine.

“She said, ‘you know, I work at a nursing home, and I saw what the virus did to the residents, to the staff’ she said, ‘I don’t want that to happen again so I went and got the vaccine,’” said Abad.

Abad said if you get the vaccine, sharing your own personal experience with family and friends may help them feel more comfortable.

“These personal conversations can make all the difference in the world is getting people vaccinated and ending this pandemic,” she added.

Abad said ending the pandemic is what most of the community wants.

“People here in Albany really understand the devastating impact that this virus can have on your life, the life of the people you love, the life of our communities and there is a sense of urgency wanting this pandemic to end,” said Abad.

Another group underrepresented is people of color. Ruis said in Dougherty County, 60% of the vaccinations given have been to Caucasians and 40% to people of color.

“We’ve got more work across the board to do, but in particular we have a lot more work to do in people of color,” said Ruis.

He said they’re working to make it easy for people to have access.

“Our staff members have been to places, including nursing homes. We’ve been to administer the vaccine to the homebound, we’ve been to jails, we’ve been to work sites including migrant farm locations, we’ve been to school, and we intend to do more to ensure that everyone has easy access to the vaccine,” said Ruis.

The CDC team leaves this weekend. They plan to present strategies to get more people vaccinated soon.

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