Although Louisville has surpassed the 50% percent mark of vaccinated citizens, the city has experienced sluggish numbers over the past few weeks, something the government is trying to combat with listening sessions, “mobile missions” and convenience.
Last week, around 8,000 people were vaccinated in the city, only a fraction of the 30,000 that Louisville was doing at its peak, according to statistics provided at a press conference by the mayor’s office on Tuesday.
When the mobile and pop-up vaccination effort began months ago, it was primarily about equity and access — making sure members of the wealthiest communities didn’t absorb the majority of the vaccines when they were in high demand — but now, with plenty of supply, it’s also about resolving hesitancy, and getting to the reason why some people aren’t getting the shot. Connie Mendel, deputy director of the Louisville Metro Department of Public Health and Wellness and incident commander of Louisville’s COVID-19 response, said that the city has partnered with 28 community groups, including La Casita Center and Americana World Community Center, where they currently hold listening sessions — some virtual, some in-person — where they provide a medical expert to have an open dialogue with people who are hesitant. Shortly after, they set up a vaccination site at the same location.
“It’s working to build that trust over multiple conversations,” Mendel told LEO.
The effort has been aimed toward trying to relinquish avoidance due to safety concerns, distrust for the government, as well as people who are worried they might have to miss work because of side effects from the shot, those who work multiple jobs at odd hours and many other concerns. The city is also working to dispel false information and address any other questions people might have in a personal and relaxed format. Another goal is to make the vaccine as readily available as possible, with easy access at places like grocery stores, pop-up spots such as the mall, as well as tents at fun events, including the Mayor’s Hike, Bike & Paddle on Memorial Day.
Last week, Louisville reported 391 COVID cases and 9 deaths, dropping the city to the yellow COVID-19 zone for the first time in around a year. Dr. Sarah Moyer, the city’s chief health strategist, said that was a good sign, but she also said that as mandates and restrictions loosen, it’s important to remain vigilant, and there’s a need for more vaccinations.
51% of Louisville’s population has now received at least their first dose, but there are large swings between age groups. The 70-75 age group in the city are the highest percentage at 93.7%, while the 25-29 age group sits at 32.1% and 30-35 is at 40.8%.
“In particular, we’ve got concern for our 40 and under year-old population, with significant percentages of folks just not getting vaccinated quite yet,” Mayor Greg Fischer said at the press conference. “With the worrisome variants we have, being more infectious and more deadly, and a non-vaccinated cohort of 40 and under, there is a very real concern over an increased sickness and mortality in that area. Most of the national experts are feeling pretty good about going through the summer but then have concerns with a fall surge back within that group.”
There’s also large disparities by neighborhood, with a city map that Moyer showed at the press conference displaying much heavier percentages of vaccinations on the East side of town than the West.
“We have some zip codes where it’s 90% or higher vaccinated and others where it’s in the 20th percentile,” Moyer said.
No one who is in the hospital locally for COVID-19 right now was vaccinated, Moyer said.
At Tuesday’s press conference, Moyer estimated that at the current rate, it would take Louisville the rest of the summer to hit a 70% vaccination rate, which some experts believe could lead to herd immunity. Right now, the city is open to being flexible with its plan and resources, so Fischer encouraged feedback from citizens.
“As people have ideas for us, we want to receive those ideas, as well, on how we can get the concerns answered and/or if there are new sites that the vaccine needs to be located at, or if you need a pop-up site,” he said. “We’ll continue to offer that if we can have at least 20 people vaccinated.”
Moyer added that there’s also a homebound list for people who find it difficult to leave their house. The Louisville Health Hotline (502-912-8598) can help with all of those things and any other questions.