Attendance at COVID vaccination events plummets in Los Angeles

Attendance at COVID vaccination events plummets in Los Angeles

May 4, 2022 0 By Heidi de Marco

Nurse Angel Ho-king nods to salsa music as she waits for people to roll up their sleeves for an injection. Ho-king is part of a four-person team working a COVID-19 vaccination table at a health fair in Rampart Village, a predominantly immigrant neighborhood about 10 minutes from Dodger Stadium.

During three hours on a recent Saturday, Ho-king and Brenda Rodríguez, a medical assistant, vaccinated 16 people, far fewer than they had anticipated. Nearly everyone who attended the fair hosted by the Saban Community Clinic was either an adult seeking booster shots or a young child receiving a first dose (ages 5 to 11 have been eligible since late last year).

As covid infections have waned, so has interest in vaccines, despite the fact that these doses are highly effective in preventing serious illness and death from the virus.

In California’s most populous county, where more than 1.7 million people have not received a single dose, vaccination campaigns have turned bleak. About 46,000 county residents received their first dose in March, a 79% decrease from January, according to the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health.

Those who remain unvaccinated are harder to convince, telling health workers and vaccination coordinators that they don’t feel it’s urgent.

According to a January survey by the California Public Policy Institute , about 1 in 10 adults in California said they definitely would not get vaccinated, which has not changed since January 2021 , and 86% of unvaccinated adults said they would the omicron variant was not enough to persuade them.

Employers and businesses are removing or reversing vaccination mandates . And while proof of vaccination once offered benefits, such as allowing people to enter without a mask, masks are generally no longer required in California.

In a recent vaccination drive coordinated by an immigrant advocacy group in Palmdale, near Lancaster in northern Los Angeles County, only two people showed up for four hours, both to get their second dose.

As of April 1, 25% of Palmdale residents over the age of 5 were unvaccinated, compared to 17% of county residents, according to official data.

Jorge Pérez, vaccination coordinator for the Salva Organization , spent a week promoting the event with his team, going door-to-door, visiting local businesses and promoting it on social media. In previous vaccination campaigns, “we had 42 people, then 20, then four,” said a disappointed Pérez. “Now two.”

Pérez reduced the number of employees in the vaccination campaigns from five to two in February as the number of people began to drop.

Much work remains to be done to combat vaccine misinformation, especially given the spread of BA.2, a subvariant of omicron that is highly transmissible , said Dr. Richard Seidman , medical director of LA Care , a public Medicaid insurance plan. serving county residents. The number of COVID cases and hospitalizations had been on the decline since February, but the county is seeing an increase in cases again, according to data released the week of April 11.

People have various reasons not to get vaccinated, Seidman said. “For some, it’s distrust of the government or health care providers in general,” he said. “Some are more cautious and want to take a wait-and-see approach. Others just don’t believe in science.”

study published April 11 in JAMA Internal Medicine shows just how entrenched these views are. Many people who refused to get vaccinated early on said they were waiting for the vaccines to gain full FDA approval. But when the agency first approved a Covid vaccine in August 2021, the study concluded that it did little to change those people’s minds and “had little immediate impact on vaccination intentions.”

In California, the unvaccinated were nearly 14 times more likely to die from Covid than those who had been fully vaccinated and received a booster dose, according to state data for the period March 7-13.

Perez said that people who get their first shots now do so mainly because they feel compelled, for example, to fulfill a job requirement or to enter places like restaurants, bars and gyms that require proof of vaccination.

That was the case for Modesto Araizas, one of two people who showed up at the Palmdale vaccine event. Despite contracting covid twice, missing work and having difficulty breathing, he didn’t get vaccinated until he needed to present his vaccination card to eat at his favorite seafood restaurant.

“I haven’t been afraid,” said Araizas, 46. “I take vitamins, eat healthy food and exercise.”

Until recently, the federal government reimbursed doctors, hospitals, and other providers for tests, treatments, and vaccinations for people without insurance. But the Health Resources and Services Administration stopped accepting claims for reimbursement for tests and treatments on March 22, and for vaccines on April 5.

Many uninsured people now likely have to pay out-of-pocket for tests and other services. Pérez hopes that people will be more receptive to vaccinations if covid tests become too expensive for them. No one is going to want to keep paying for tests when they can get a dose, he reasoned.

Nurse Roxanna Segovia works at a temporary testing and immunization clinic across the street from the South LA Cafe in South Central Los Angeles.

He recently spent 45 minutes trying to persuade a man who had been visiting the clinic regularly for free tests to get vaccinated.

“He gave me all the reasons why he hadn’t been vaccinated, like his civil rights were violated and even Bible verses,” Segovia said. “His job requires it now, and he said he was losing money by being absent waiting for test results. If he continued like this, he wouldn’t be able to feed his family, but with all that, he still wasn’t sure if he was making the right decision.”

At the end of the conversation, he got vaccinated.

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