'I'm suspicious': Vaccine hesitancy could be biggest challenge in Marin Co. reaching herd immunity

Wayne Freedman Image
ByWayne Freedman KGO logo
Tuesday, May 4, 2021
This could be the biggest roadblock to reaching herd immunity
While Marin County tops California in percentage of people partially vaccinated, there is still a major obstacle for county health officials trying to reach heard immunity: People who don't trust the vaccine.

MARIN COUNTY, Calif. (KGO) -- We'll call him "Jim." ABC7 News met with him in a downstairs garage, far from prying eyes. He doesn't want people to know his real name because he says the public pressure and judgment have become almost overwhelming.

He's one of the rare few Marin County residents who chooses to not be vaccinated against COVID-19.

"I am suspicious of the vaccine. It can create issues to the human body, he said.

RELATED: Vaccine hesitancy in San Francisco is the lowest in California

He fears for his DNA, that the vaccine will destroy his natural immunity. Jim's views present a challenge to the county public health officer hoping to reach herd immunity.

"There will always be 2-3 percent of people opposed to vaccinations," said Dr. Matt Willis.

Marin County has made significant progress in fighting the coronavirus, but region now sees thousands of cancelled appointments every week.

"I think it was a convergence of supply caught up with demand," said Laine Hendricks, who speaks for the County Health Department.

VIDEO: US surgeon general shares compelling message about vaccine hesitancy

ABC7 News Reporter Kate Larsen spoke one-on-one with the U.S. Surgeon General, Dr. Vivek Murthy, about vaccine hesitancy and family.

Beyond mass vaccination sites, the county has begun soliciting people in hard-to-reach areas.

Today, we found a crew of nurses beneath tents in a shopping mall. Tomorrow, they will be in a car dealership.

They want to make the vaccinating process easier for people with accessibility issues, and also for doubters.

One, who identified himself as Joe, says his girlfriend convinced him. Still, "I was suspicious at how quickly they rolled it out. The phase three trials were faster than any other vaccine produced. There is big money behind this. Big corporations. Something to watch out for in the near future," he said.

VACCINE TRACKER: Here's how CA is doing, when you can get a coronavirus vaccine

In terms of vaccination rates, Marin County sits in a unique position.

It has given at least one shot to 82-percent of eligible people. That's top in the state. Those numbers did not happen by accident.

Since almost the beginning of the coronavirus outbreak, Marin has produced public service announcements and videos about all phases of COVID-19. The awareness campaign appears to have worked.

"We're at a point now where the primary strategy is around helping people who may be hesitant or have not made a decision to be vaccinated," said Dr. Willis.

Still, removing hesitance may be easier with some people than with others.

"What will convince you to take the vaccine?" we asked Jim in that secluded garage.

"If in a year from now the people who took the vaccine are still alive," he said.

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