Kings County hopes for boost in COVID-19 vaccinations as hesitancy remains a challenge

State data shows that Kings County comes in second to last place among Valley counties in terms of total doses administered.
KINGS COUNTY, Calif. (KFSN) -- Clarification: The story that aired on ABC30 at 4 said, "State data shows that Kings County comes in second to last place in terms of total doses administered." This is among Valley counties, not statewide.

Lemoore's Connie Hernandez didn't hesitate to get the COVID-19 vaccine.

She has diabetes, and her doctor strongly encouraged her to get protected against the deadly disease.

"Well when you see all those deaths on TV, that's enough to scare anybody," Hernandez said. "And I don't want no part of that."

But Hernandez has a close family member that wants no part of the vaccine.

She says that her relative thinks the government is trying to kill them by giving them the shot.

"I've told her but to no avail," Hernandez said. "But she'll see it, she'll come around."

Kings County Supervisor Craig Pedersen said: "Well, I think there's still a fair amount of hesitancy to take the vaccine."

State data shows that Kings County comes in second to last place in terms of total doses administered (among Valley counties).

Pedersen believes that is at least due in part to residents who are reluctant to get the shot.

"Obviously, we don't want to go through this again, and so we still encourage people to get the shots if they want to, and they're more than available in the community," he said.

Kings County has a lot of rural regions.

But there are efforts to make it easy for everyone to get a shot.

Vaccines were available in various locations throughout the county on Thursday, including the public health department's Lemoore location and at Lemoore High School, where walk-ins were being accepted.

Walk-ins are also available at Adventist Health rural health clinics, such as Home Garden.

Staff ask patients if they've gotten the shot and if they have any questions about it.

"So that's what we're doing at not only a ground level but also within all our organizations and also teaming up with other organizations and non-profit organizations to bring that awareness that the vaccine is safe, it's here, and it's saving lives," Adventist Health Ambulatory Medical Officer Raul Ayala said.

"Unfortunately the demand is not there," Adventist Health Pharmacy Director Ed Abukhazneh said. "The public has reached a plateau."

But Abukhazneh believes the vaccine is behind the improving COVID-19 metrics throughout the region.

He says more people need to get vaccinated to prevent any future surges.

"The vaccine supplies are ample and the people need the protection and we are happy to educate and continue our campaign in order to make sure that people get vaccinated," Abukhazneh said.

Statement from KCPHD:

Despite initially receiving among the lowest number of vaccines per capita among California counties and being required to shift to an state appointment system that created a very real technological barrier to vaccination, Kings County providers have administered over 72,000 vaccines to date. Kings residents only make up a portion of that total (63,041 doses) since the County is required by the State to serve anyone seeking vaccination, and people come from all over the State to receive the vaccine. This equates to nearly 40,000 Kings residents being fully or partially vaccinated. That number is one illustration of the work that has been done to break down barriers related to vaccine access. In addition to the many pharmacies and healthcare providers now offering vaccine in Kings, the Department holds clinics in Avenal, Corcoran, and Lemoore 4 days a week, including Sundays, and 5 days a week in Hanford. This is in addition to the mobile unit offering the Janssen (Johnsons & Johnson) vaccine alongside COVID testing Monday - Thursday. Currently there are vaccine appointments available seven days a week, through multiple sources, and there is no vaccine shortage.

We have an opportunity now to help prevent another wave of COVID illness and hospitalizations, and work toward a safe and sustained reopening in Kings. Recognizing vaccine hesitancy among Kings' residents, KCDPH conducts ongoing outreach efforts to offer one-on-one assistance making vaccine appointments and answer questions about the various vaccine products. We also continue to work with various community organizations to hold vaccine pop-up clinics whenever possible, and make vaccine education a part of those events. It's important to us to get people the information they need to make an informed decision on vaccination and continue to make the vaccine itself as readily available as possible. We're not alone in these efforts - school districts, many local elected officials, and partner community organizations are also helping to sign people up for vaccine appointments and working to address vaccine-related concerns with the people they serve. While we recognize vaccine hesitancy is present in Kings, the COVID-19 vaccination effort is far from over and we're working diligently to ensure the right resources and information are available for as long as it takes to see the other side of this pandemic.
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