Mayor Van Johnson talks ‘frustrating’ vaccine hesitancy

Coronavirus

SAVANNAH, Ga. (WSAV) – Vaccine hesitancy has been “frustrating,” and Savannah has been struggling to keep up with mask enforcement, Mayor Van Johnson said in his weekly press conference Tuesday.

“COVID is still real. COVID is still killing people,” Johnson said plainly, adding that the changing weather is giving some Savannahians a false sense of security.

He said the mass vaccination site at the Savannah Civic Center is administering far fewer vaccinations than it’s capable of.

“It becomes very difficult, and you want to be available because every person helps. But on the other end of it, if we’re set for 1,000 [vaccinations] and we’re only giving 50, that’s really a waste of time, effort and money,” Johnson said. “And so we’ll have to do something else.”

All state-run mass vaccination sites will close on May 21 and are not expected to reopen. That includes the Gulfstream Aerospace site. Beginning this weekend, the sites will only administer Johnson & Johnson vaccines and second doses of Pfizer shots.

The latest state data shows over 133,000 vaccine doses have been administered in Chatham County, with 22% of residents fully vaccinated. Nearly a quarter of residents have received at least one dose of vaccine.

“I fear that the urgency and necessity of being vaccinated combined with the COVID fatigue, vaccine hesitancy and the great weather has made people believe that this pandemic is behind us,” Johnson said. “We know that this simply not the case.”

Over the weekend, Chatham County surpassed 20,000 total cases of COVID-19 and 417 deaths. County hospitalizations also jumped to 31 and community transmission remains high.

Watch the mayor’s full press conference:

“I will give vaccines if they show me how to do it,” Johnson said.

A majority of those getting inoculated are non-Hispanic white folks, aged 55 or older, the mayor said, and the city is looking into targeting specific communities to get the word out. He mentioned efforts to mend the racial divide in vaccinations by going to churches and community centers to encourage vaccination.

Johnson believes those hesitant to get vaccinated may be more inclined to do so at their local house of worship or community center.

“We recognize that people of color often have more underlying health conditions. We know that overall, they are affected more by COVID, and we know that the lasting efforts are more because of that,” the mayor said.

Johnson reiterated that Savannah’s mask ordinance would remain in place and that he wouldn’t rush to lift it following new guidance for activity outside. Johnson’s reasoning is that he believes there wouldn’t be a way to prove vaccination.

He said he’s been double masking to be safe.

For local vaccine information, visit wsav.com/vaccine, and for local testing information, click here.

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