Gov. Tom Wolf on Thursday described a sudden drop in demand for COVID-19 vaccines, with places around the state that had waiting lists a few weeks ago now able to offer plenty of next-day appointments.
He said at least some of it results from people who believe vaccine is unsafe or unnecessary, and he’s unwilling to allow that to prevent Pennsylvania from reaching “herd immunity.”
“Now we’re in a new phase. The line is a lot shorter than it was. The supply is a lot better than it was. We need to recognize that new reality,” he said.
Yet even after greatly expanding the eligibility pool, demand is still down, said Dr. Gerald Maloney, the chief medical officer for Montour County-based Geisinger Health System.
He said next-day appointments are available; not long ago Geisinger was booked several weeks out.
“We seem to be at the point where most of the people who want to be vaccinated, in the eligible group, have come forward and been vaccinated,” Maloney said.
He said “vaccine hesitancy is a major problem right now.”
Maloney expressed grave concern over the situation, saying Pennsylvania needs to get to the level of least 70% of residents being vaccinated and, ideally, around 90%.
That would make it highly unlikely people will pass COVID-19 to others. Moreover, people who aren’t vaccinated can enable COVID-19 to mutate into more contagious and dangerous strains, and possibly strains that aren’t blocked by existing vaccines.
“It’s the unvaccinated people who become infected who give rise to the variants,” he said.
“I’m not resigned to anybody not getting a shot,” Wolf said.
“We should not resign ourselves to less than the numbers we need to get to herd immunity,” Wolf said, adding that “more and more people recognize this is not just about them.”