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Next steps in COVID vaccine campaign: reaching the "sort of" hesitant

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Now that 35% of eligible Michiganders are fully vaccinated, health officials say efforts need to focus on groups that are borderline-hesitant. (Think your cousin who hasn’t gotten their shot yet because it’s “inconvenient,” or your pregnant friend who’s getting mixed messages from her social media feed.) 

“I see a lot of people posting on Facebook that you don't need to get vaccinated [if you’re pregnant,] what you really need is just some extra vitamin D,” said Dianne Michalek, a spokesperson for Munson Healthcare, said Tuesday.

“I have friends who are in this boat,” said Dr. Stacey Sensor, an OB-GYN at Munson. “They don't want to get the vaccine. They think it's too new. They are just going to take their chances. I think taking your chances in this environment is too risky.”

Sensor says she’s been talking to patients about the growing evidence showing not only that COVID increases risks for pregnant women, but also that the vaccine is safe for mom and baby. 

“I'm always really concerned if they get [COVID]  in the last four weeks of the pregnancy, because those patients tend to do worse,” she said. “And I had a patient...who had a baby after she had had COVID in the third third trimester, and she developed a blood clot in one of the veins inside the pelvis. She needed long term anticoagulation [treatment] after that. And it just became a big kind of difficult recovery and difficult postpartum state.

“As physicians, we want to have healthy moms and healthy babies. That’s what we live for...

And this [vaccine] is an opportunity for our patients to receive that, to have decreased risk of having an adverse event. And I just think it's really, really important that they take advantage of this opportunity.”

In Oakland County, the health department announced a new marketing campaign Tuesday, aimed at "vulnerable and hard-to-reach populations through smaller, targeted clinics that bring the vaccine into neighborhoods and communities.” County officials are putting the campaign on television, radio, print, and social media ads.

But Sensor says younger people in general need to be reached more effectively.

“That's the group right now that we really need to target. ...They're the ones that are getting sick. I think we've done a really good job of vaccinating our older population, but I think we need, to really move forward and get out of this pandemic, we really need our younger people to step up to the plate, and get the vaccine to protect themselves, protect their family and so that we can move on.”

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Kate Wells is a Peabody Award-winning journalist currently covering public health. She was a 2023 Pulitzer Prize finalist for her abortion coverage.
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