Polling suggests need for education on vaccine value

Dale Lockridge closes his eyes as he gets the first round of the COVID-19 vaccine at Kearney's Oak Pointe assisted living facility Jan. 6. “Taking the vaccine is the chance to start,” he said. “We have to begin somewhere to make it better.” According to American Viewpoint research, 58% of 800 polled Missourians said they are “very” or “somewhat likely” to seek the vaccine immediately when it becomes available to the public.

New polling of Missourians’ attitudes about COVID-19 vaccination shows work is needed to educate citizens about the individual and collective value of receiving the vaccine, states a release from the Missouri Hospital Association. The Missouri Hospital Association is a not-for-profit that represents 140 Missouri hospitals. The association offers continuing education programs on current health care topics and seeks to educate the public about health care issues.

Research shows 58% of Missourians are “very” or “somewhat likely” to seek the vaccine immediately when it becomes available to the public.

“Broad vaccination is the key to response and recovery in Missouri,” said Herb B. Kuhn, MHA President and CEO. “Although the vaccine is not available to the public currently, it will be essential to have an informed, confident and energized public as we move into the widespread distribution phase of vaccination efforts.”

Public health experts estimate 70% or more of Americans may need to get the vaccine for the general population to reach herd immunity.

“When most of a population is immune to an infectious disease, this provides indirect protection or herd immunity,” states a release from the John Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. “For example, if 80% of a population is immune to a virus, four out of every five people who encounter someone with the disease won’t get sick and won’t spread the disease any further. In this way, the spread of infectious diseases is kept under control.”

The polling research, conducted by American Viewpoint in the first week of January, surveyed 800 Missouri adult voters. In an informal poll from the Courier-Tribune published at mycouriertribune.com in December, 29 of 61 poll respondents reported being skeptical about getting the vaccine.

Currently, Missouri is vaccinating Phase 1A priority individuals, which includes frontline health care workers and caregivers and residents of assisted living facilities.

While a slim majority of those survey reporting willingness to get vaccinated as soon as possible, the American Viewpoint survey found a bright spot in responses from Missouri seniors. According to researchers, 60% of seniors are “very likely” to get the vaccine, with 58% likely to get it as soon as it is available.

In Clay County, vaccinations of health care workers and residents at nursing home facilities began last week. Pharmacies, employers and Clay County Public Health Center offer vaccines for Phase 1A priority groups. As of Jan. 11, Clay County has recorded more than 16,000 cases of COVID-19 and 220 related deaths.

“We are extremely excited that we can start offering vaccination against COVID-19 to the people of Clay County,” said Director of Public Health Gary E. Zaborac. “Although the process of vaccinating everyone will take months, this is a significant first step towards slowing the spread of COVID-19 in our communities.”

On Jan. 6, residents at Kearney’s Oak Pointe Assisted Living and Memory Care began getting vaccines.

“Taking the vaccine is the chance to start,” said resident Dale Lockridge. “We have to begin somewhere to make it better.”

All other Missouri seniors are a priority group in the state’s vaccination plan and will be among Phase 1B recipients, along with first responders, essential workers like school employees and grocery store workers and other high-risk adults.

More than 20% of survey participants indicated they would definitely not get the vaccine. Springfield and St. Louis collar counties are two areas where adults are least likely to get the vaccine when it becomes available, states the MHA release. Individuals identifying themselves as Republican or conservative were most likely to say they would not receive a vaccination.

Researchers also inquired whether survey participants thought the vaccine would be distributed fairly. Seventy percent indicated that they were confident or somewhat confident that the process would be fair. Trust that the vaccine will be distributed fairly is lowest in the Kansas City metropolitan area. Trust is also low in St. Louis County and the City of St. Louis.

Skepticism of the likelihood of a fair distribution process was highest among African American participants at 42%.

“However, this community has solid interest in vaccination — yet with some hesitancy that mirrors their fairness concern — as nearly 40% indicate they would not seek or pursue vaccination,” states the release. “At 103 deaths per 100,000 residents, the rate of COVID-19-related deaths for African American Missourians is 1.9 times the rate for white Missourians and 1.4 times the rate for the entire state. Significant outreach to all communities of color — which already is underway — will be necessary to improve confidence in the safety and efficacy of the vaccine and the equity of distribution.”

Two COVID-19 vaccines currently approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and being distributed in Missouri are from the drug manufacturers Pfizer and Moderna. Both require an initial vaccination followed by a booster several weeks later. The vaccines have proven to have limited side effects in clinical trials and are both more than 95% effective in providing immunity to COVID-19 disease.

For more vaccination information, visit covidvaccine.mo.gov. For updates on all COVID-19 regional news, visit mycouriertribune.com/coronaviruscoverage.