Enlarge /. A Donald Trump supporter holds a fake vaccination shield as he protested in Washington, DC on Tuesday, January 5, 2021.
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While the Biden government expects to have enough COVID-19 vaccine doses by May 1 to vaccinate all adults, health experts and policy advisors are trying to figure out how these shots can actually get into the arms of people – especially people those who are hesitant or suspicious of the vaccines, many of which are Republicans.
For most of the country – about 69 percent – getting vaccinated and being able to return to normal activities is an easy sale. Over 21 percent of people in America have already received at least one dose of an approved vaccine. There are currently three vaccines approved for use in the United States, all of which are highly effective and safe. For the remaining pro-vaccine folks, it's only a matter of time before they can get one. In fact, many people across the country are anxiously trying to sign up and scour online registration websites for an open vaccination slot.
According to a March 5 poll by the Pew Research Center, about 30 percent of adults are not in line. About 15 percent of people said they probably wouldn't get vaccinated, and another 15 percent said they definitely wouldn't get a shot. That's enough people to dispel any hopes that vaccination can end the pandemic. It is also enough to ruin the Biden government's plans to celebrate our independence from the virus on July 4th.
There are a number of reasons people avoid their shot, but many of them correlate strongly with political leanings. For example, in the Pew poll, Democrats were 27 percentage points more likely than Republicans to say they would or have already received a COVID-19 vaccine.
The same inequality was found in other surveys. A poll released on February 26 by the Kaiser Family Foundation – a nonprofit focused on national health issues – found that 28 percent of Republicans said they would "definitely not" get a COVID-19 vaccine while only 2 percent of Democrats said so.
A poll published March 12 by NPR / PBS NewsHour / Marist found the same thing. When asked, "If you are given a vaccine against the coronavirus, will you choose to have a vaccine?" The two groups most likely to answer "no" were Republican men (49 percent said they would say no) and those who supported then-President Donald Trump in 2020 (47 percent said they would oppose). Notably, the survey also found little difference between blacks and whites when it came to lowering a dose. About 28 percent of whites said they would refuse to be shot, while 25 percent of blacks said the same thing.
In a 20-person focus group of Trump voters held this weekend, GOP pollster Frank Luntz worked to figure out how to break the partisan barrier to vaccination. "These people represent 30 million Americans," Luntz told the Washington Post. "And without these people, you won't get herd immunity."
After the two-hour session, 19 participants (one dropped out) said they were more likely to be vaccinated. What helped change their minds were clear and honest facts about the vaccines – for example, that an overwhelming number of doctors chose to vaccinate, and that the long-term health effects of COVID-19 could be much worse than that Side effects of the vaccine. Participants also valued hearing points like this, although the mRNA vaccines were designed and tested at “warp speed”, the underlying research for the vaccines has been in the works for decades. Even if experts think the vaccine is safe, there is no way to identify long-term risks.
"We want to be educated and not indoctrinated," said one participant.
What absolutely didn't work were political appeals or appeals from politicians. Focus group members resented a video advertisement for the vaccines, which included former Presidents Barack Obama, George W. Bush, Bill Clinton and Jimmy Carter. Surprisingly, they also said they would not be influenced by an appeal from Trump himself. Luntz later speculated to the Post that maybe "people are starting to move".
One politician, however, appeared to be influential: former New Jersey governor Chris Christie. The focus group was moved by Christie, who spoke about his own battle with COVID-19 (which landed him in intensive care for a week) and how he lost two family members to the virus. He stressed that he trusted vaccines based on his experience with COVID-19 and the information he had received about the vaccines themselves.
Otherwise, Trump supporters said they wanted to hear more from trusted sources in their lives, such as doctors, than from celebrities or politicians. This is in line with what health researchers who studied vaccine reluctance have found. And the Biden administration seems to have already made this point.
In a press conference, Marcella Nunez-Smith, a Yale researcher who advises Biden on health justice, spoke about the government's efforts to promote vaccination. "We are building relationships with trusted messengers across the country to ensure they have the best possible information to share with their communities," she said.
According to a report by Stat, the government is spending $ 1.5 billion on a public relations campaign aimed at people who are hesitant or resistant to a COVID-19 vaccine. The campaign will include radio, television and digital advertising and will launch in the coming weeks.