New study finds 4 of 10 Virginians would not get a COVID-19 vaccine

Junior photography major Adam Santiago receives his flu shot at CVS Pharmacy on Sept. 26. Photo by Enza Marcy

Emily Tomasik, Contributing Writer

A new poll from VCU’s L. Douglas Wilder School of Government and Public Affairs found that 40% of Virginians are unlikely to get a federally approved, no-cost COVID-19 vaccine, and two-thirds of the commonwealth’s residents are against a required vaccine.

The poll, released on Sept. 17, surveyed 804 adults in Virginia on the safety of COVID-19 vaccinations, returns to in-person learning and the upcoming 2020 presidential election.

The likelihood to get vaccinated was split among gender and political lines, the poll found. About half of surveyed women were open to a coronavirus vaccine, while 70% of men said they were very or somewhat likely to receive one. 

Sixty-four percent of Independents and 59% of Democrats said they were likely to get the vaccine, versus 49% of Republicans. Overall, the percentage of Virginians unwilling to get the vaccine was slightly higher than the national average of 35%.

The survey was conducted from Aug. 28 until Sept. 7 and has a 5-6% margin of error.

Associate professor of epidemiology at VCU Derek Chapman said distrust of executive leadership and partisan issues overlap into public health crises. He said some people may be against vaccinations because they’re fearful of disregard for safety procedures or scientist recommendations.

“I am confident that the safety data will be scrutinized carefully by experts because our public health officials are aware of what is at stake here — the trust of the public.” — Michelle Doll, infectious disease specialist.

Chapman said younger people may not feel like they need a COVID-19 vaccine.

“Younger adults may feel that a COVID-19 vaccine is not important for them to receive if they are not in direct contact with those whom they consider at risk,” Chapman said.

However, age has not been proven as a factor in immunity. Michelle Doll, a Richmond infectious disease specialist, said there have been cases of younger people with severe COVID-19 complications that led to death.

“I do think that the varying messages coming from our nation’s leadership have left many confused and frustrated,” Doll said, “and eroded credibility of our public health institutions.”

Some early vaccine trials have led to abnormal side effects among participants, which is why Doll said safety data on new vaccines is important to review.  

“I am confident that the safety data will be scrutinized carefully by experts because our public health officials are aware of what is at stake here — the trust of the public,” Doll said.

Freshman forensic science major Bianca Argueta said she believes vaccines work and benefit those that don’t want to get themselves or others sick. As an out-of-state student with high-risk family members, Argueta said she wants to keep herself and her loved ones safe.

“If I got the vaccine, I think it would be beneficial,” Argueta said, “not only to me, but to them also.”

The Wilder School’s survey, which is conducted monthly, found that among likely voters, Democratic nominee and former Vice President Joe Biden was ahead of President Donald Trump by 14 percent. Seventy percent of surveyed Virginians said Biden’s choice of running mate Sen. Kamala Harris, D-Calif., made no impact on their vote.

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