So few people came to get the COVID-19 vaccine in one North Carolina county that hospitals now allow anyone 16 and older to get vaccinated, regardless of where they live. Take a chance, get a free donut, said the governor.
Alabama, which has the lowest vaccination rate in the country and a county where only 7% of residents are fully vaccinated, launched a campaign to convince people that vaccines are safe. Doctors and pastors joined the effort.
Nationwide, the Biden administration launched a “We Can Do This” campaign this week to encourage those who resist to get vaccinated against the virus that has claimed more than 550,000 lives in the US.
The race has begun to vaccinate as many people as possible, but so far a significant number of Americans are reluctant to receive vaccines, even in places where there are plenty. Twenty-five percent of Americans say they probably or definitely will not get vaccinated, according to a new poll by The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research.
They are wary of possible side effects. They tend to be Republicans and are generally younger and less susceptible to becoming seriously ill or dying if they contract COVID-19.
However, there has been a slight change from the first weeks of the largest vaccination campaign in the country’s history, which began in mid-December. An AP-NORC poll conducted in late January showed that 67% of adult Americans were willing to get vaccinated or had already received at least one injection. Now that figure has risen to 75%.
That, experts say, brings the nation closer to herd immunity, which occurs when enough people have immunity, either from vaccination or from past infections, to stop the uncontrolled spread of a disease.
Between 75% and 85% of the total population, including children, who are not currently receiving vaccines, must be vaccinated to achieve herd immunity, said Ali Mokdad, professor of health metrics sciences at the College of Public Health of the University of Washington.
Just over three months after the first doses were administered, 100 million Americans, or about 30% of the population, have received at least one dose.
Andrea Richmond, a 26-year-old freelance web coder from Atlanta, is among those whose reluctance is waning. A few weeks ago, Richmond was leaning toward not getting the vaccine. He was concerned about the possible long-term effects. I knew that an H1N1 vaccine used years ago in Europe increased the risk of narcolepsy.
Later, her sister was vaccinated with no ill effects. The opinions of Richmond’s friends also changed.
“They went from, ‘I don’t trust this’ to ‘I’m all freaked out, let’s go out!'”
Her mother, a cancer survivor, with whom Richmond lives, is so interested in getting her daughter vaccinated that she signed her up online for a jab.
“I’ll probably end up taking it,” Richmond said. “I guess it’s my civic duty.”
But some remain staunchly opposed.
“I think I only had the flu once,” said Lori Mansour, 67, who lives near Rockford, Illinois. “So I think I’ll take a chance.”
In the latest poll, Republicans were still more likely than Democrats to say they probably or definitely won’t get vaccinated, 36% compared to 12%. But today a smaller number of Republicans are reluctant. In January, 44% said they would avoid a vaccine.
The hesitation can be seen in rural Alabama’s Winston County, which is 96% white and where more than 90% of voters backed then-President Donald Trump last year. Only 6.9% of the county’s roughly 24,000 residents are fully vaccinated, the lowest level in Alabama.
Elsewhere in Alabama, health officials have tried to counter problems including reluctance in areas with large black populations where distrust of government medical initiatives runs deep. They targeted some counties with a message in favor of vaccines, especially in the former plantation region where a large percentage of the population is black and many are poor.
The campaign recruited doctors and pastors and used virtual meetings and the radio to spread the word.
State Health Assistant Dr. Karen Landers said the effort had positive results. For example, in Perry County, where 68% of the population of about 9,300 is black, more than 16% of the population is fully vaccinated, among the highest levels. Officials are likely to make similar efforts for other parts of the state, he said.
Nationally, 24% of African Americans and 22% of Hispanic Americans say they will probably or definitely not get vaccinated, up from 41% and 34% in January, respectively. Among white Americans, 26% now say they will not get vaccinated. In January, that number was 31%.
The Biden administration’s campaign includes television and social media ads. Celebrities and community and religious figures are joining the effort.
Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds, a Republican, is trying to win over a third of Iowa adults who do not commit to receiving a vaccine by emphasizing that the injections will help get life back to normal.
In Cumberland County, North Carolina, fewer than 1 in 6 residents have received at least one vaccination.
Amid concerns that there would be a surplus of unused vaccines, Cape Fear Valley Health’s hospital systems opened vaccines last week for everyone 16 and older.
“Rather than not using doses, we want to give more people the opportunity to get vaccinated,” said Chris Tart, vice president of Cape Fear Valley Health. “We hope this encourages more people to roll up their sleeves.”
On Wednesday, Gov. Roy Cooper, a Democrat, tweeted a video of him receiving a free donut from the Krispy Kreme chain. Customers who show their vaccination card can get a free donut every day for the rest of the year.
“Do it today, guys!” Cooper encouraged the spectators. Nearly 36% of North Carolina adults have been at least partially vaccinated, state data shows.
Younger people are more likely to forgo an injection. Of those under 45, 31% say they will probably or definitely forgo an injection. Only 12% of people 60 and older say they will not get vaccinated.
Ronni Peck, a 40-year-old mother of three from Los Angeles, is one of those who plans to avoid getting vaccinated, at least for now. You are concerned that vaccines have not been studied for long-term health effects. He feels that some friends disapprove of his position.
“But I’ve stopped worrying about whether or not I feel left out and instead I’ve learned to spend more time worrying about whether I’m doing the right thing for myself and my kids,” Peck said.
Deborah Fuller, a professor at the University of Washington School of Medicine, said that if the level of herd immunity cannot be reached soon, a more realistic goal might be to vaccinate at least 50% of the population by this summer, with a higher vaccination rate among the most vulnerable to reduce serious illnesses, hospitalizations and deaths.
“In this scenario, the virus would persist in the population but would cease to be a major health threat that burdens our health care systems,” Fuller said.
Selsky reported from Salem, Oregon. Fingerhut reported from Washington. Weber reported from Los Angeles. Associated Press writers Bryan Anderson in Raleigh, North Carolina, and Jay Reeves in Birmingham, Alabama, also contributed to this story.
The AP-NORC survey of 1,166 adults was conducted March 26-29 using a sample drawn from the NORC probability-based AmeriSpeak Panel, which is designed to be representative of the US population. respondents is plus or minus 3.6 percentage points.