MARYVILLE, Mo. — Health officials worry vaccine hesitancy in Northwest Missouri could make it a hotspot for COVID-19 like other parts of the state.
Hospitals are reminding people there’s a safe and effective method to try to prevent surges similar to those we saw at the height of pandemic.
Of the 51 COVID-19 patients in the Mosaic hospital system in St. Joseph and Maryville, the oldest is 61, the youngest 29.
Hospital officials feel vaccine hesitancy among younger people is fueling a spike. In Nodaway County, about an hour and a half north of Kansas City, 39% of people are fully vaccinated.
“Initially, I was skeptical of the vaccine because of the possible side effects and adverse reactions,” Jeanine Montgomery said.
Overall in Nodaway County, things aren’t nearly as bad as last November when they had more than 350 active cases. Right now that number stands at 25.
But after seeing the case surge in other parts of the state caused in part by the Delta variant, Montgomery will get her second shot Wednesday. Health officials are hoping more people join her.
“It’s really a cautionary tale, what we’ve seen in Springfield, what we’ve seen in Greene County. Nodaway County is very similar. We have lower vaccination rates. Delta variant is in our area. We’re at risk,” Mosaic Medical Center President Nate Bradford said.
“There was a time where we were having no cases come in, and it was a relief where we at least felt like we had jumped over a hurdle, and that has certainly changed now,” Dr. Sally Bomar said.
Bomar said along with seeing younger patients, with the Delta variant, patients have different side effects. The tell-tale sign of loss of taste or smell is less common, replaced with more headaches and body aches.
But the potential for serious illness is still there, and Bomar said the variant also carries the same long-term risks.
“I think what people don’t realize is these long-term complications, even people that aren’t particularly ill have long-term complications,” Bomar said.
She said some people have chosen not to get the vaccine because it became politicized like wearing a mask. At the hospital, temperature checks and masks are still required, but Mosaic’s president said those measures are additional precautions.
“Now that the vaccine is available, our greatest weapon is the vaccine,” Bradford said.
While some see being urged to get a vaccine as an affront to their personal freedom, Montgomery said for her, the vaccine is about protecting that freedom.
“I want to get back to normal and go do things and travel and be around crowds,” she said. “I want to be able to do that with a clear conscience and not have to wear a mask.”