Johnson County vaccine FAQ: Is ‘vaccine hesitancy’ a concern in Johnson County?

vaccine hesitancy

“Currently, people in Johnson County are interested and enthusiastic to receive the vaccine,” says county epidemiologist Elizabeth Holzschuh. Though supply of doses continues to lag behind demand, county health officials say they've encountered little outward resistance from residents towards getting vaccinated. File photo.

The Shawnee Mission Post is making much of its local coverage of the coronavirus pandemic accessible to non-subscribers. (If you value having a news source covering the situation in our community, we hope you’ll consider subscribing here.

Each Friday, the Shawnee Mission Post publishes a Johnson County vaccine FAQ, answering some commonly asked questions about the process to get vaccinated for COVID-19 in Johnson County.

If you have a question about vaccines you’d like answered, email us at stories@shawneemissionpost.com.

As vaccines become more widespread, this week’s FAQ focuses on the potential for vaccine hesitancy in Johnson County and why health officials say it’s important to get vaccinated when your opportunity arises.

Is vaccine hesitancy a concern in Johnson County? 

  • It could be a concern as the vaccine rollout continues, but it’s not a major concern right now, according to county health officials.
  • That’s primarily because so far, there hasn’t been enough vaccine supply for all the people who currently want them. The bigger problem up to now in Johnson County has been meeting demand.
  • “Currently, people in Johnson County are interested and enthusiastic to receive the vaccine,” says county health director Sanmi Areola, Ph.D. “We are hoping that a majority of our residents take the vaccine.”
  • It should be noted, communities of color across the U.S. are showing higher rates of vaccine hesitancy, in part, because of historically grounded mistrust of the health care system and other factors, like communications barriers.

What does the data say about how many Johnson Countians are getting vaccinated? 

  • Generally, Areola says, vaccine uptake in Johnson County is higher than it has been across the state of Kansas and in other areas of the Kansas City metro.
  • And that’s translating into promising vaccination rates. CDC data shows nearly 20% of Johnson County residents have been fully vaccinated, the highest rate of any county in the greater Kansas City region.
  • “We want everyone who is eligible for the vaccine to get vaccinated,” Areola said. “We want the vaccine in as many arms as possible in our county and across the state.”

So what should I do if I know someone who hasn’t been vaccinated yet? 

  • Encourage them to fill out vaccine interest surveys or inquire with their primary care provider about getting the vaccine.
  • If you’ve been vaccinated yourself, tell someone who hasn’t about your experience. You can also share your story on social media, though there are some ethical questions to consider. And definitely don’t post an unobstructed picture of your vaccine card. 
  • Right now, anyone over the age of 16 can receive a vaccine in the state of Kansas, but appointments are limited.

Where should I direct people who haven’t been vaccinated? 

  • Individuals can register their interest in receiving the vaccine with Johnson County by filling out the county’s vaccine interest survey here.
  • The Post also put together this explainer of all the avenues through which an individual can try to find a vaccine appointment.
  • Also, information about the #SleeveUpJoCo campaign is available on the county website.

If vaccine hesitancy becomes more of an issue, how does Johnson County plan on dealing with it?

  • The main tactic will be education and information, say county health officials.
  • Areola said that could look like targeted communication efforts with community partners or hosting clinics in different areas of the county to make receiving the vaccine “more convenient.”
  • “We expect these efforts to continue,” Areola said. “We are prepared to ramp up efforts in this area as necessary.”

Additionally, questions about vaccines should be directed toward people in the field of medicine. Resources are available here as well.

Why should I get a vaccine? Or what should I tell someone who asks why they should get vaccinated? 

  • Research on the two most widely used vaccines in Johnson County — the Pfizer BioNTech and Moderna vaccines — show that both are safe and effective at preventing serious infection from COVID-19
  • Serious complications from both vaccines have been rare, though there are potential side effects as there are with any immunization.
  • Emerging data also suggests getting vaccinated may also make it harder for individuals to spread COVID-19.
  • Dr. Jennifer Watts, the medical director for emergency management at Children’s Mercy Hospital in Kansas City, Mo., said getting a vaccine isn’t just good for you personally, but it’s beneficial to the community.
  • “It’s important for everyone who can possibly get it to receive it,” Watts said. “Until everybody has an opportunity to receive the vaccine, it is our responsibility as a citizen … to receive that vaccine when you are eligible, if at all possible.”

But about those side effects: seriously, is there any danger to getting vaccinated? 

  • As with any immunization (think of your yearly flu shot) there is risk of complications.
  • There have been isolated reports of severe allergic reactions to the Pfizer and Moderna shots, but in some studies, these cases have made up less than 1% of vaccinations. If you have had severe allergic reactions to immunizations in the past, it is recommended that you not get vaccinated at this time.
  • An acute allergic reaction is likely to occur within minutes of getting a dose, which is why vaccinators always ask vaccine recipients to stay for 10-15 minutes to monitor for any potential symptoms.
  • Much more common are side effects like fatigue, aches, chills and nausea (especially after the second dose), along with pain or tenderness in your arm where the vaccine occurred. But these symptoms typically last for no more than a few hours.

Our previous FAQs