Sun Sentinel Broward Edition

Many young people want to get vaccinated after all

- By Wells Dusenbury

A surprising number of young adults are seeking the COVID-19 vaccine in Palm Beach County.

The demand for vaccine has been strong among young people since the state dropped the eligible age to 18 and over on Monday, Dr. Alina Alonso, the state health department director for Palm Beach County, said Tuesday.

That’s particular­ly encouragin­g because COVID-19 cases have begun to rise in the county, with young people driving the increase, Alonso said.

The county’s positivity rate — the percentage of COVID tests coming back positive — hit 7.70% on Monday, up from 6.12% the previous day. The county reported 286 new cases, more than half among the 18-44 age group.

“We’re seeing 18-44 year old group, the one that is causing these cases to go up, are asking for [vaccine] appointmen­ts,” Alonso told county commission­ers. “That is very, very encouragin­g.”

In its first offering of the vaccine to people 18 and older, the Palm Beach County Healthcare District filled up 4,000 firstdose appointmen­t slots within a few hours Wednesday.

The health care district will reopen the scheduling portal when it receives a new supply of vaccines, a spokeswoma­n said. The district usually receives a new supply weekly. Appointmen­ts will be available at the county’s scheduling website, vaccine.

Time will tell, however, if that initial demand holds steady. Many young adults, who are least likely to be hospitaliz­ed or die from the disease, have shown skepticism and reluctance toward receiving the vaccine.

Alonso said it’s incredibly important for people to get vaccinated in order to avoid a fourth wave of cases as variants begin to increase across the state. While she said variants aren’t more deadly that the predominan­t strain, they are more contagious, which makes that trend very “concerning.”

She emphasized the “main tool we have for it is the vaccine” and “we have got to get everyone vaccinated so this virus cannot spread and become the predominan­t virus.”

“We’re not Supermen or Superwomen yet with the vaccine, although we feel like it,” Alonso said. “But we still have to be careful. And the issue is we do not want to go back up on that curve.”

The Palm Beach County Healthcare District offers vaccine appointmen­ts at its three county-run sites: South Florida Fairground­s in West Palm Beach, South County Civic Center in Delray Beach and Burns Road Community Center in Palm Beach Gardens.

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