Doctors combat COVID vaccine hesitancy 1 patient at a time

Local and state health leaders say it is more important than ever to build trust in the COVID-19 vaccine as vaccination rates drop to the lowest since mid-January – when only frontline health care workers and people in long-term care facilities were eligible. 

At Full Circle Family Medicine in Germantown, Dr. Kirsten O'Quinn said about 20% of her patients who are eligible have not yet received the COVID-19 vaccine.

"A lot of them haven’t gotten around to it or they feel like I’m still staying at home, I don’t really have to get that yet," O'Quinn said.

Dr. Kirsten O'Quinn

Dr. Kirsten O'Quinn

The doctor said some are worried the shots could cause infertility or other long-term health concerns. Dr. O'Quinn said there is no evidence of either happening. 

"It’s not changing your genetics," O'Quinn said. "It’s really quick, kind of in and out. I saw somebody that kind of relayed it to a Snapchat, where it goes in and gets the message there and then it just sort of disappears."

The doctor's message comes as the state continues to see a decline in people seeking out the shots.

In Washington County, where Dr. O'Quinn's office is located, 40% of residents have received at least one dose. That is four points below the state average. 

"I had one guy tell me last week, I’m in that group that could sell me either way. And so we talked about it and by the time we were done, he said I’m going to go get it scheduled today," the doctor said.

Among her patients and friends who remain reluctant, O'Quinn has found many are simply waiting to talk through their decision one-on-one with someone they know and trust. 

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"Trying to break through those barriers one at a time is really going to be helpful in the long run to try to get us to that herd immunity," the doctor said.

O'Quinn said the next step in building vaccine confidence will be to make it easier for doctor's offices like hers to order and store the shots for patients when need be – especially as younger children become eligible.

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