Health Officials Work to Combat Vaccine Hesitancy Amid Pause for Johnson & Johnson Shots

Worcester Health Commissioner Dr. Mattie Castiel says she is working to communicate with the community that she trusts the Johnson & Johnson coronavirus vaccine and that pausing its administration is being done to ensure the highest level of safety

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While the decision to pause distribution of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine is making some people more wary about getting that shot when distribution resumes, health officials in Worcester, Massachusetts, are working to combat that hesitancy.

Worcester Health Commissioner Dr. Mattie Castiel is on a mission to overcome the inherent inequities in the battle against COVID-19.



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"The numbers in the Black and Latino communities, immigrant communities, those numbers are extremely high of getting COVID, and yet they're the least ones who have been vaccinated," Castiel said.

That's why she is brining the vaccine to them through mobile vaccination and equity vaccine clinics like at the Y this past weekend.

And she says compared to single-digit vaccination rates for communities of color statewide, a much higher percentage of vaccines are going to people of color at Worcester's outreach clinics.

"The Latinos are 43% were vaccinated, Black 20% were vaccinated, Asian 12% were vaccinated, and the percent white was 22%," she said. "That's just incredible."

But Castiel says the decision to pause the Johnson & Johnson single dose vaccine definitely makes these mobile efforts more complicated.

"They're hesitant about taking the vaccine overall," she said. "The one shot was something that they felt comfortable with."

And now, the concern is that even if the Johnson & Johnson vaccine is brought back, some of that precariously-placed trust has eroded.

"I don't feel safe with this vaccine," said Clara Diaz of Worcester.

"If it drags on longer, I don't know how well the city's going to do here," said Jocelyn Moehringer of Worcester.

Castiel says she's working on communicating with the community that she not only trusts the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, but that pausing administration is being done to ensure the highest level of safety.

"Most importantly, to explain to people that anything that's happening right now is for their safety," Castiel explained, "and to remember that the numbers and the percentage of somebody getting any of this is slim to none."

Castiel says they were able to pivot quickly and offer the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine at all of their currently scheduled clinics, but they're hoping to get the Johnson & Johnson shot back soon.

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