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Cape County falls behind in COVID-19 vaccination rate

After leading the state in COVID-19 vaccinations in February, vaccination rates have stalled in the county.

“The county is falling a little bit below the state of Missouri and the United States as a whole on both the one dose completed and the completion of the series,” Cape Girardeau County Public Health Center Director Jane Wernsman said.

As of Friday, 35.4 percent of county residents have received their initial shot of a COVID-19 vaccine and 30.9 percent had fully completed their one-dose Johnson and Johnson vaccine or two-dose Pfizer/Moderna vaccination.

Statewide, 41.5 percent of the Missouri population has initiated vaccination, while 34.4 percent have completed their COVID-19 vaccination. Nearly half of the United States population has received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine and 40 percent are fully vaccinated.

Vaccinations hit a record high in the beginning of April, with over four million vaccinated in the United States on April 1. Today, around 1.5 million people are vaccinated per day in the U.S.

“Quite honestly, across the county, the state, the nation, vaccine interest has waned a little bit – quite a bit, actually – from where it was in December,” Wernsman said at the latest Public Health Board meeting on May 25.

Wernsman said the 25 approved COVID-19 vaccine providers in the county are continuing vaccination efforts. “We are offering vaccination opportunities every Wednesday and Friday here at the Health Center,” she said. “We are even having walk-in times available for individuals who don’t have to schedule appointments.”

On May 25, public health staff was also holding a vaccination clinic in Delta. “We are still trying to do some outreach in local communities and targeting some spots that have asked us to come,” Wernsman said.

Of the 16,353 COVID-19 vaccine doses given by the health center, five were reported to the state for causing an adverse reaction. Wernsman said they do not have the data for the other county providers, as it is reported directly to the state.

The Public Health Center also presented its annual communicable disease review during the meeting, which showed influenza cases in the county had fallen to 12 cases during the latest flu season, running from Oct. 1, 2020, through May 15 of this year. The county had 2,028 reported cases of influenza the previous year.

“That is absolutely unheard of for a flu season,” Autumn Grim, an epidemiologist at the health center, said. She added there were no influenza hospitalizations in Cape Girardeau County this flu season.

Grim said they are not sure how much of the decrease can be attributed by preventative precautions put in place for COVID-19, as there may have also been a decrease in testing.

Jay Forness covers education, county government and community events for The Cash-Book Journal. He graduated from Southeast Missouri State University with a degree in multimedia journalism and has lived in Jackson for the past four years. He can be reached at cbjedit@socket.net.

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