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Local Experts Hopeful for a Return to Normal Despite Vaccine Hesitancy

NBC Bay Area logo NBC Bay Area 5/4/2021 Ian Cull
a group of people wearing costumes: In this Feb. 5, 2021, file photo, people stand in line at the mass vaccination site at San Francisco’s Moscone Convention Center that opened today for healthcare workers and people over 65 in San Francisco, California. © Provided by NBC Bay Area

In this Feb. 5, 2021, file photo, people stand in line at the mass vaccination site at San Francisco’s Moscone Convention Center that opened today for healthcare workers and people over 65 in San Francisco, California.

Health officials say vaccine hesitancy is the biggest challenge to reach herd immunity, but local experts believe COVID-19 case rates can still decrease enough for a return to normal. 

A major step towards protection is that 104 million Americans are fully vaccinated, but nationwide, vaccinations are down 24%.

Some, like Natalie Petrongola, don’t feel the need, saying she was already infected. 

“Personally for me, I feel I’ve already had it and I’m not interested in getting a vaccine,” she said.  

Polls show 12% of Americans still don't plan to get vaccinated at all and another 15% say they'll wait and see. 

While some experts are concerned hesitancy will prevent herd immunity, UCSF’s Doctor Monica Gandhi says the more accurate definition and goal is containment and she firmly believes that will happen. 

“We will get to that place with vaccines where we have such low cases, and such low hospitalizations that we go back to normal life,” she said, adding that California's high vaccination rates are already helping. 

She believes doctors should start administering them in their offices – to help the hesitant. 

“That's the next thing people are calling for. Let us doctors have them, because we have relationships with our patients, and we can have long conversations and then not send them away to get their vaccine somewhere but get it right here,” Gandhi said. 

The Biden administration used a two-pronged strategy to reach groups reluctant to roll up their sleeves. 

“Trusted messengers to get message about why it’s important to protect yourself, protect your family, protect your community, and make it as easy as possible for people to get vaccinated,” said Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease. “That’s what’s going on.”

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Santa Clara County is doing just that -- expanding access, opening a site at the Santa Teresa Light Rail Station. 

It vaccinated 4,000 people over four days. They also hope more people aged 16-29 will show up because it’s lagging behind other age groups.

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