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Vaccine hesitancy still an issue in the Mid-South as hospitalizations decrease

Published: Sep. 20, 2021 at 11:30 PM CDT
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MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - COVID-19 hospitalizations are going down, but vaccine hesitancy is still a major issue in the Mid-South and across the U.S.

There are more than 5,900 COVID-19 positive people in Shelby County hospitals.

It’s truly being felt at Methodist Le Bonheur Healthcare System. The healthcare system says getting more people vaccinated is the key to relieving the county’s healthcare system.

“We have seen a decrease in hospitalization rates, which is really encouraging, but our numbers still remain high,” said Dr. Shirin Mzumder with Methodist Le Bonheur Healthcare.

Mazumder says there are five available ICU beds systemwide. The hospital system is caring for 192 COVID-19 patients. Sixty-three of those patients are in the ICU and 86 percent of those hospitalized are unvaccinated.

“I think the virus is here to stay. Who knows when this is going to end. So, I think we need to adapt and live our lives in the safest ways possible and the vaccines are really the backbone of safety,” said Mazumder.

But vaccine hesitancy is still an issue as all three Mid-South states lag behind national vaccination rates.

Tennessee has only 44 percent of its population fully vaccinated.

According to a study conducted by Carnegie Mellon University and the University of Pittsburgh about vaccine hesitancy, the top concerns about vaccinations were safety and potential side effects.

“So, what I usually tell people is that any issues, any major issues associated with vaccines in general typically tend to occur sooner rather than later. We do have a lot of safety data in regards to the COVID vaccine data in children age 12 and above and that is really encouraging,” said Mazumder.

Mazumder says she is encouraged by Pfizer’s announcement to expand vaccine eligibility to those as young as five years old.

However, that could be at least a couple of months before that happens and proven methods such as mask-wearing is necessary to keep that population safe.

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