It’s been weeks since the rate of COVID-19 vaccinations began to stall in St. Clair County, much to the chagrin of health officials.
Less than half of the county has been at least partially vaccinated, which is below the state’s rate of 58.1%. As of Tuesday, more than 55,100 county residents were fully vaccinated, while more than 62,500 had received one dose.
But some areas of St. Clair County — broken down by local U.S. Census tract boundaries — are further ahead than others.
“It follows pretty much what the national data is trending, which means rural areas are less vaccinated than urban areas,” Dr. Annette Mercatante, the county’s medical health officer, said during an interview this month. “And within the urban areas, poorer communities, areas that have more disproportionate poverty, minority populations, they are also less vaccinated.”
Broadly, most communities central to the county — except for the south sides of Port Huron and Port Huron Township — have vaccination rates of 50% or higher for one dose, which is better than the county as a whole.
In much of southern and western St. Clair County, meanwhile, less than half of residents have been vaccinated.
That’s where Mercatante said the health department wants to more heavily focus its efforts.
“We’ve had clinics in these areas. We will continue to offer them, but they’re not very well attended,” she said. “We still have a very active vaccination group that meets weekly to try and promote not only messaging but also, the clinics. So, we have the opportunity to provide vaccine clinics in pop-up locations, maybe co-locating vaccine clinics with other community events.”
Feeling pressure to get vaccinated?
Health officials have acknowledged that, after the initial rush for vaccinations, it becomes more difficult to find people who want the vaccine. Those who have chosen not be vaccinated aren’t likely to change their minds.
“I refuse to get it,” resident Christin Elkins said in a message Wednesday. “Too much happening with people that get vaccinated.”
Elkins lives near the southern edge of Burtchville Township, where 50% to 59% of residents are vaccinated. Across Metcalf Road in Fort Gratiot, bordered by Carrigan Road, is St. Clair County’s highest-vaccinated tract and the only one at 70% to 79%.
Usually a believer in regular immunizations, Elkins said she felt COVID-19 vaccinations were “being pushed on us,” especially at a national level.
Elkins said she doesn’t trust the vaccine.
“I’m not concerned about getting sick. I just worry about my son,” Elkins said. “But we practice and do all the safety measures to ensure we don’t get sick. A little over a year, and none of us have had it.”
As they approach new methods to address lower immunization rates, health officials said they understand plenty of others feel the same way.
Differences in vaccinations by region
In western St. Clair County, the vaccination rates appeared to be the lowest overall.
Capac, as well as Lynn, Brockway, Mussey, Berlin, Emmett and Kenockee townships, all showed a range of 30% to 39% vaccinated, while Riley Township, which is one census tract, was the county’s lowest-ranked at 20% 29%.
There are only a couple of pharmacy locations that have offered COVID-19 vaccines in that area.
At Ehardts Pharmacy in Capac, pharmacist Brian Linne said they were “really late in getting our shots.” He said “our first doses came from the health department because they were having problems facilitating access for people in St. Clair County.”
In Port Huron Township, Interstate 94/69 split two halves into vastly different COVID-19 vaccination outcomes at 50%- 59% and 30%-39%. Supervisor Bob Lewandowski said he wasn’t sure why the southern half was so much worse, though he thought the township often mirrors the city of Port Huron’s south side.
“I just wish more people would get their vaccination,” Lewandowski said. “But I understand it’s up to them whether they want to or not. It’s tough. I don’t know what it’s going to take to get people to get their vaccinations.”
Besides the Harrison Pointe neighborhood and the area north of Lapeer Avenue, all of the Port Huron’s neighborhoods south of the Black River are under 50% vaccinated.
All of Marysville, meanwhile, is more than 50% vaccinated, as is Fort Gratiot.
Rob Crawford, Fort Gratiot’s township supervisor, attributed their success to the number of residents who are 65 and older.
“I think that’s a big part of it,” he said. “… What I’ve heard is, people got the vaccine just because they wanted things to return more to normal and be able to do things. You know, my wife was kind of opposed to the vaccine. And then she says, ‘But here’s the thing, if I don’t get vaccinated, what can I do?’”
Areas of St. Clair, China, East China and Clay townships, as well as the city of St. Clair, are also 50% vaccinated or higher.
Contact Jackie Smith at (810) 989-6270 or email@example.com. Follow her on Twitter @Jackie20Smith.
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