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Quest for herd immunity being hurt by ‘COVID fatigue’: DeKalb County health officer

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A building at the DeKalb County Fairgrounds is serving as a COVID-19 vaccination site through the month of May.

AUBURN, Ind. (Fort Wayne's NBC) - It's important to note that tens of millions of people are embracing the idea of being vaccinated.

But others have not yet, and may decide not to at all.

Is that hesitation threatening society's quest for full protection from the coronavirus?

Some people aren't vaccinated simply because they haven't yet made it a priority.

But a new National Public Radio/Marist Poll found that 1 in 4 Americans said they would refuse a coronavirus vaccine outright if offered.

Another five percent said they are undecided about whether they'd get the shot.

Many health experts believe we need at least 75 percent of the U.S. population vaccinated to feel confident about controlling the spread of the virus.

We talked to John Jones in downtown Auburn Monday, who was seriously ill last June with COVID, but he still hasn't been vaccinated yet.

"I lost 65 pounds in 14 days," Jones said.

He is adamant he is not opposed to getting the vaccine.

"No, it's just been…a lot of other things, I just haven't gotten around to getting it yet," he said.

We caught up with Rusty Richardson at the DeKalb County Fairgrounds, where COVID shots are being offered to those who make appointments and, in some cases, to walk-ins.

Richardson, who volunteers with the vaccination process, got his shots so he could feel the freedom to travel again.

But he knows others who want nothing to do with being inoculated.

"I have relatives that, 'I'm not going to get it, because, you know, the federal government is involved'. (laughter) You know, the conspiracy stuff, but no, I've got no problem getting them (the shots)," he said.

DeKalb County's health officer, Dr. Mark Souder, says in the four counties tucked in the far northeast part of Indiana-- Steuben, DeKalb, Noble and LaGrange Counties-- only about 30 percent of folks eligible for a shot have gotten one.

"There's so much bad information that's being sent out...People have given up, people are just tired of it, there's so much fatigue with COVID right now, I can't believe it," Souder said.

He believes it didn't help that the Johnson and Johnson vaccine was suspended from use for a short period of time due to a very rare blood clot problem that surfaced in a tiny number of women patients who received the shot.

"I think the J and J debacle slowed people down, made them think twice, people that were on the edge aren't going to jump over the fence to get their shot now. It gave people a reason that had a doubt not to want to walk towards the shot. I still hope everybody will get their shots because that's the only way we're going to get rid of the ongoing disease process in our communities," he said.

Despite what reluctance might exist about getting COVID vaccinations, medical experts say shots received by people across America have reduced severe COVID illnesses and hospitalizations, providing evidence that the vaccines are making a dent in the coronavirus threat.

Jeff Neumeyer

Jeff Neumeyer is a reporter for WPTA.

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