Vaccine distribution is tapering off in North Dakota, with about 49 percent of the state fully vaccinated.

“As with the rest of the state and the country, our numbers are starting to slow considerably,” Custer Health Administrator Erin Ourada said.

Ourada says initial vaccine efforts were effective, but now, not so much.

“I don’t know that we’ve had any huge successes. Right off the bat we did, but it has been much more challenging recently,” Ourada said.

Ourada says Custer conducted community assessments over the past few weeks to figure out why people are hesitant. A report will be coming out soon with new strategies Custer hopes to take to get more people vaccinated.

“Trying to convince people that this is best for their communities and hopefully we can figure out how to do that,” Ourada said.

Those at Bismarck-Burleigh Public Health are trying to figure that out, too. But hesitancy is widespread, and Community Health Nurse Manager Theresa Schmidt says it’s important to provide people with the data.

“When we see hesitancy, it’s making sure that they have information from the right resources. We like to make sure that the information that is available is based on science and data,” Schmidt said.

Schmidt says Bismarck-Burleigh Public Health has focused on social media, word of mouth and community partners to encourage vaccinations, but other options, including fliers and potentially a billboard could be on the table.

Those at the state health department say the efficacy of the vaccine is apparent in hospitalization data.

“What we’re seeing is greater than a tenfold increase in hospitalizations for those who are unvaccinated compared to those vaccinated,” North Dakota Department of Health Director of Special Projects and Health Analytics Grace Njau said.

Njau says from January to July 9 this year, there have been 707 people who were not vaccinated hospitalized for COVID-19. During that same period, 57 who had been vaccinated were hospitalized for the virus. In other words, those unvaccinated were about 12 times more likely to be hospitalized.

“The numbers speak for themselves in that your vaccinated populations are really doing so much better than your unvaccinated,” Njau said.

According to the health department’s vaccine dashboard, as of Thursday, 291,422 North Dakotans have been fully vaccinated.

The stats are higher however for those 65 and older, with about 68 percent fully vaccinated.

Schmidt also added that Bismarck-Burleigh Public Health is seeing increased interest from younger people who might have concerns about going back to school, sporting events or traveling.