Not many takers at county fair COVID vaccine clinics

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vaccine card
Vaccination cards sit on a table at the Pennsylvania Department of Health booth at Ag Progress Days. Agriculture Secretary Russell Redding visited the free vaccine clinic, hosted by the Pennsylvania Department of Health, at Penn State's Ag Progress Days, in Centre County on August 10, 2021. (Pennsylvania Dept. of Ag photo)

As county fairs were ramping up this summer, the COVID-19 vaccination rate was plummeting.

At the beginning of fair week in Columbiana County, 39,538 people in the county had taken at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine. That is about 38% of the county’s population. The vaccination rate stands at about 44% right now.

The Columbiana County Department of Health held a walk-in vaccine clinic Tuesday through Saturday during the fair, for six hours each day. During that time, 11 vaccinations were given, said Laura Fauss, Columbiana County Department of Health public information officer.

They went into the week expecting to have a small turnout to the walk-in vaccination clinic, since vaccinations rates throughout the county had slowed significantly leading up to the fair, Fauss said

“We went into this thinking one shot can save a life,” she said.

Low numbers

The story was much the same at fairs, festivals and shows throughout the summer and fall. A clinic at the All-American Dairy Show, held at the Pennsylvania Farm Show Complex in September, had five takers.

In Pennsylvania, 15 vaccination clinics were held from July 15 to Oct. 15 at agricultural fairs, competitions and festivals. State medical staff gave 76 vaccinations at those 15 clinics, according to state data.

The clinics were all part of a larger statewide initiative to make the COVID-19 vaccines widely available and as convenient as possible for people, according to the state Department of Health.

“We know that to overcome hesitancy for some people it is a matter of getting the vaccine to them,” the department said, in a statement to Farm and Dairy. “In that regard, every vaccine administered at these events is one more person joining the fight to stop COVID-19. We encourage them to share their vaccination story with their family and friends.”

The Mahoning County Department of Health held a clinic from 5-8 p.m. Thursday-Saturday at the Canfield Fair in the beginning of September. They administered 25 Johnson & Johnson shots to pre-registered people and walk-ins, said Erica Horner, director of nursing and community health for the department.

The fair was expected to have a large turnout this year. Horner said even though vaccination rates had slowed significantly in the county, they knew the fair draws in people from all over the region. They wanted to put the opportunity to get vaccinated in front of as many people as possible, also figuring that one more shot in a person’s arm is better than none.

Vaccines

The Pfizer and Moderna vaccines have been available since last December under emergency use authorization. The one-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine became available under emergency use authorization in February.

Nationwide, the number of COVID-19 vaccine doses given daily hit a peak at the beginning of April. The daily dose administered count hit rock bottom in early July. The numbers in Ohio and Pennsylvania trended similarly to national rates.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration fully approved the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID vaccine on Aug. 23. It was the first COVID vaccination to receive full approval.

The full approval of one of the vaccines came with the hope that people who were hesitant about the emergency use authorization would get the shot. It also opened the doors to businesses and government agencies to enact vaccine mandates on employees.

Face-to-face interaction

Fauss said the clinic and health department’s booth at the fair was also about being there to talk to people.

“If people want to come by and talk, or complain, we want that face-to-face interaction,” Fauss said.

The department of health also recorded interviews with people during the fair for a video time capsule. Fauss said they simply asked if people wanted to talk about their experience during the pandemic. More than 20 people went on camera to share what it’s been like to live through a global pandemic.

“There were people that got emotional, talking about people getting sick,” she said.

(Reporter Rachel Wagoner can be contacted at 800-837-3419 or rachel@farmanddairy.com.)

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Rachel is a reporter with Farm and Dairy and a graduate of Clarion University of Pennsylvania. She married a fourth-generation beef and sheep farmer and settled down in her hometown in Beaver County. Before coming to Farm and Dairy, she worked at several daily and weekly newspapers throughout Western Pennsylvania covering everything from education and community news to police and courts.

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