Side effects, mistrust top reasons residents hesitant about vaccine

Nearly six months since the COVID-19 vaccines became available in North Carolina fewer than half of eligible adults have received a dose. The I-Team dug into why.

Video Transcript

TERRI STORMS: We were, it was just like, maybe fishing and you're getting bites like that. In fact, it kind of overwhelmed us.

SAMANTHA KUMMERER: The initial craze of COVID-19 vaccination from early this spring, no longer a reality for vaccine providers. Terri Storm says her demand is cut in half.

TERRI STORMS: But we're still getting them in, I've done several this morning. So, you know, it just comes and goes.

SAMANTHA KUMMERER: Her pharmacy in Cumberland County is situated in one of the areas with the lowest vaccination rates in the state. Where 37% of North Carolina's overall population is vaccinated, Cumberland County stat represents half of that with only 17%. Only Hoke and Onslow county reporting fewer.

However, Cumberland county health director Dr. Jennifer Green says vaccination at Fort Bragg and the VA hospital aren't being included in those totals.

DR. JENNIFER GREEN: Anybody that was vaccinated on the installation or by the installation or by the VA is not reflected on that map. So we think that estimate is an undercount of how many individuals have been vaccinated.

SAMANTHA KUMMERER: Still, she says, vaccine hesitancy is a big concern. The CDC previously estimating some of the highest hesitancy in Cumberland county and the Sandhills. Cumberland county resident Shayla McMillian admitting she was on the fence.

SHAYLA MCMILLIAN: I was hesitant about it, you know. I was a little bit nervous but I said, you know what, I'm going to do this. Because if I do it, maybe 10 other people will do it and it really did happen that way.

SAMANTHA KUMMERER: US census finding distrust in the vaccine and concern over side effects as top reasons for hesitancy in North Carolina. McMillian motivated to push through these concerns by partnering with her church for a vaccination clinic. Her and others believe having personal conversations and sharing experiences will be the most successful tactic.

SHAYLA MCMILLIAN: I think it's very impactful because they can see a face to the vaccine. Not just saying, here's a vaccine, but they see people's faces like, OK, I know her. So yes, she's safe, so it's safe for me.

SAMANTHA KUMMERER: And that approach obviously a very slow one. The community members I spoke with say they acknowledge that there's still a lot of work to do. Dr. Jennifer Green telling me that the younger generation, couples who are concerned about fertility, and the Black community all among the people who are the most hesitant for the vaccine. For the I-Team, Samantha Kummerer, ABC11 Eyewitness News.