The lack of demand for the COVID-19 vaccine in Fresno County has resulted in a reallocation of doses to other parts of California.
Joe Prado, a division manager with the Fresno County Department of Public Health, said Thursday said the county reallocated about 70 percent of its doses to other counties through the Blue Shield vaccine distribution system.
Blue Shield was set to send Fresno County 40,000 doses this week, but with the lack of demand, the county denied 28,000 doses. Prado said the county has requested 18,000 doses for next week.
“We don’t want to be holding on to doses that we don’t necessarily need, so we’re able to do that with Blue Shield really working alongside us here,” Prado said. “What we’re seeing is the demand isn’t there, so supply is no longer an issue, really.”
The lack of demand is simple: vaccine hesitancy.
According to the latest data updated on Tuesday, Fresno County has administered nearly 550,000 doses of the vaccine. That includes 198,000 people who have been fully vaccinated – received both shots of the Pfizer or Moderna products or received the Johnson & Johnson vaccine – and 131,000 people who are partially vaccinated.
Vaccine hesitancy has reared its head has about one third of the county has received at least one shot.
Dr. Rais Vohra, Fresno County Interim Health Officer, compared the vaccine hesitancy to the movie Groundhog Day.
“It’s just Groundhog Day,” Vohra said. “We’ll never end this pandemic unless people are protected, and the best way to get people protected is to get them vaccinated. If we want to get back to normal, this is our best shot, pardon the pun. This is really the best shortcut we have to reopening everything the way that we want.”
What happens if vaccine hesitancy continues and the demand remains low?
“We’re just going to have to keep doing the masking and the social distancing and the limited capacity and doing everything outdoors as much as possible, unless we can really treat that we have enough protection in our communities that we can start to do things in a more normal fashion,” Vohra said.
“The vaccines are the light at the end of the tunnel. Now it’s up to us how long that tunnel lasts. The sooner we get our folks vaccinated, the shorter that tunnel will be. Just think about it that way, that it’s really up to us how long we want to stay in this Groundhog Day kind of life where we wake up and the pandemic is still with us.”
Vaccine hesitancy is not unique to Fresno County as other parts of the Central Valley are experiencing low demand.
The Los Angeles Times reported last week that Southern Californians have been travelling to Kern County’s vaccination site at California State University, Bakersfield, because of a vaccine supply that outweighs the demand.
Notably, the Central Valley has been part of the first push from Blue Shield and its focus on equity. A large portion of the doses has been allocated for under-resourced and disproportionately impacted populations.