COVID-19 vaccine demand is tanking throughout the country just as the shot has become readily available.
The closure of Texas Vista Medical Center, a 356-bed hospital, will leave residents on the South Side with a ratio of 0.2 beds per 1,000 people. Credit: Scott Ball / San Antonio Report

Things are starting to look discouraging on the vaccine front.

Despite being among the leaders in vaccinations at this stage of the pandemic – only the United Kingdom and Israel have vaccinated greater percentages of their populations – the U.S. is seeing significant decline in coronavirus shots, with 11% fewer daily vaccinations over the past week. Only during the February winter storm did daily inoculations drop that dramatically.

Demand appears to have fallen sharply the same week all Americans age 16 or older were made eligible for the shot.

San Antonio is no exception. Providers throughout the community are seeing less interest than during the feverish first few months of the vaccine rollout, when supplies were scarce and booking an appointment felt like winning the lottery. Now many aren’t even showing up for their appointments.

Perhaps one of the main reasons vaccinations are slowing down is that some just don’t have the time. President Joe Biden on Wednesday called on employers to grant employees paid time off to get vaccinated and to deal with any side effects they may experience afterward.

The dropoff in vaccine demand, if it continues, probably does not bode well for the summer Fiesta many were pining for or even the president’s vision of a close-to-normal Fourth of July. Events on the River Walk sans COVID restrictions could be around the corner. Outdoors or not, public displays of pre-pandemic-style celebrations will only inspire more of them, and we’re not anywhere close to herd immunity.

The decrease in inoculations is causing many public health officials to ponder whether it’s due to hesitancy, complacency, apathy, lack of time or access, or all of the above. A recent Axios-Ipsos poll finds misinformation plays a big role in whether a person is likely to get vaccinated. Respondents who told the pollsters they were “not at all likely” to get vaccinated were the least informed group. Regardless of the reason, the San Antonio Metropolitan Health District is rushing headlong to reach unvaccinated residents.

Vaccine hesitancy has caused a reversal of the Field of Dreams strategy in San Antonio. “If you build it, they will come” no longer seems to be working for many of the mass vaccination sites in the area. Now public health leaders are looking to bring the vaccine to the people through popup vaccination clinics and other smaller but targeted events. Reporter Lindsey Carnett has more on that in tomorrow’s edition of the San Antonio Report.

Friday could bring news on the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, as a summit of experts is expected to overturn the suspension of the single-dose shot. There have been few cases outside of the handful of blood clotting disorders that developed in female patients who received the Johnson & Johnson shot, but on Thursday it was reported a Texas woman was among those who have since had an adverse reaction to the vaccine. It’s fair to ask whether the super-rare cases of blood clotting among women are causing people to hesitate about whether to get any of the vaccines.

There’s a contingent of people who seem to think the pandemic is over. My hope is that the apathetic and complacent residents that assistant city manager Colleen Bridger spoke of in Editor Robert Rivard’s Thursday column see the light and get vaccinated soon.

JJ Velasquez

JJ Velasquez

JJ Velasquez was a columnist, former editor and reporter at the San Antonio Report.