Apr. 22—ANDERSON — Although Madison County has made strides in getting COVID-19 vaccinations into residents' arms, the recent pause in distribution of the Johnson and Johnson vaccine has triggered some vaccine hesitancy locally, county health department officials said.
As of Wednesday, 31,215 residents had been fully vaccinated, about 24% of the county's population.
"I would certainly like that to be higher," said Stephenie Grimes, administrator for the Madison County Health Department. "I think we are trending in the right direction."
On April 13, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Food and Drug Administration called for a pause in the one-shot J&J vaccine's use in the U.S. after six reported cases of rare blood clots in women who received the vaccine. That pause is expected to be lifted on Friday. But concerns about the vaccine have already had an effect locally.
"We immediately saw a decrease in our vaccination visits," Grimes said. "Honestly, it's unfortunate, because I think we all held so much hope that vaccine was going to help get us through this, along with our strategies for prevention."
According to the state's online metrics dashboard, the county's weekly two-metric score tracking positive tests and active cases fell to the blue level and, if it remains there next week, the overall advisory level will be reduced from yellow to blue.
Grimes said she was particularly encouraged to see only a slight uptick in cases and positivity rates in recent weeks, given that opportunities for community spread likely increased due to many students being on spring break.
"We saw a little bit of an increase, but not so much that it took us out of blue or low community spread," she said. "For the most part, what the community spread metric is based upon is about a week behind. So for this week alone, we have been in single digits every day, which is really encouraging."
Coronavirus-related deaths in the county have also slowed dramatically, with three such deaths being reported since March 30.
"Our cases have been really low," Grimes said, "and we feel like that positivity rate is going to decline as we test less symptomatic people. So we should be in good shape."
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