TRAVERSE CITY — Dr. Jennifer Morse was giving vaccines at Central Michigan University on Friday, where more than 1,200 people had signed up for shots.
But Morse, medical director of Central Michigan District Health Department, as well as District Health Department No. 10, said there was a supply of about 3,000 vaccines.
The initial rush by older people who were concerned about getting COVID-19 has given way to younger, healthier people who may not be so eager to get the vaccine and most clinics now go unfilled, Morse said.
Information about breakthrough cases — defined by the CDC those who test positive 14 or more days after being fully vaccinated — may worsen vaccine hesitancy that is much more common in the under-50 crowd, Morse said.
“Anything that will show fault with the vaccine will affect vaccine hesitancy,” Morse said. “The personal stories or the stories from friends — whether they are true or not — seem to have more of an impact than large studies with large amounts of data.”
Dr. Michael Collins, health director for the Grand Traverse County Health Department, said there have been about 30 breakthrough cases seen in the county. In light of the 30,000 people who’ve been vaccinated, that’s good news, he said.
The 30 cases were all people who tested positive, Collins said.
“The really good news is that even in people who’ve been vaccinated and have tested positive, they’ve had really mild cases,” Collins said.
Morse said she has received a lot of questions from people asking why they should get vaccinated if people are still getting sick.
While there has not been a lot of data yet compiled, initial reporting shows there have been fewer than 1 percent of people vaccinated experience breakthrough cases in Michigan, said Lisa Peacock, health officer for Health Department of Northwest Michigan and the Benzie-Leelanau department.
“There are always going to be people who get the illness despite being fully vaccinated,” Peacock said. “Millions and millions have received the vaccine and very few have developed COVID.”
COVID-19 cases are monitored by hospitals, as well as tracked through the Michigan Disease Surveillance System. More will be known about breakthrough cases as that post-vaccine data is gathered and studied, Peacock said.
Breakthrough cases are expected as the vaccines are not 100 percent effective, according to the CDC. A small percentage of people who are fully vaccinated will get sick or die from COVID-19, though many will be asymptomatic or have less severe symptoms.
Of 87 million people who have been fully vaccinated in the U.S., 7,157 breakthrough infections — or 0.008 percent — have been reported to the CDC. Of those, 498 have been hospitalized and 88 have died, though 11 of those deaths were reported as asymptomatic or not related to COVID-19, the CDC reports.
Reported cases may be undercounted as they rely on voluntary reporting from state health departments, according to the CDC. There are also cases that will not be identified because of lack of testing.
Peacock said vaccine hesitancy is something practitioners are used to seeing, and not just with the COVID-19 vaccine. She said she can’t speak to everyone who is hesitant, but reasons include being afraid of side effects, myths and rumors about the vaccine, and concerns that it does not work.
“Vaccine hesitancy is an issue that we fight all the time,” she said. “It’s important to listen to people’s concerns with respect. It takes a lot of patience, concern and understanding of where people are coming from.”
Many people trust their own doctors, which is why information on the safety of the vaccines is being distributed to clinics and physicians’ offices, she said.
The pulling of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine off the shelves after six women out of 6.8 million who received the vaccine reported blood clots is proof of that safety, she said.
Health advisors for the CDC on Friday recommended resuming administration of the J&J vaccine to adults.
Morse said it is challenging to know how to counteract some of those hesitancy issues.
“One way or another, people will get vaccinated or will get infected,” Morse said.
It would be better to reach that 70 percent immunity threshold through the vaccine, as some of the long-term effects of the disease can be devastating, she said.
As the urgency for the vaccine wears off, Collins said departments are having to use ingenuity and effort to reach people.
“(70 percent of the population) has always been a high goal and one that we suspected would be difficult,” Collins said. “Now we’re going to have to move away from mass vaccination clinics and do more at places like schools, churches and shopping centers to meet people where they are.”
As of Friday, Michigan’s COVID-19 dashboard reported that 8.78 million people — nearly 47 percent of the 16 and older population — have received at least one dose of the vaccine.