Idaho survey zooms in on tipping point for those still hesitant to COVID-19 vaccine
The survey was conducted in mid-November, just before omicron burst onto the scene.
Idaho state public health officials have learned through surveys that some Idahoans are dead set against getting a COVID-19 vaccine. But there’s a large group that just isn’t sure whether to get vaccinated or not. That’s where the focus has shifted. (Photo illustration by Audrey Dutton)
A survey of Idahoans in mid-November offers more insight into what people are thinking about when deciding whether or not to get a COVID-19 vaccine.
The survey included 500 people. In that group, 15% — about 75 people — said they hadn’t yet received the vaccine but were considering it. The remaining 85% said they were already vaccinated, and most of those vaccinated Idahoans said they’d gotten their first dose as soon as it was available to them.
But a chunk of Idahoans surveyed said they’d chosen to get vaccinated against COVID-19 during the few months leading up to November. That coincided with the delta-fueled surge that killed and hospitalized record numbers of Idahoans, in all age groups.
Robert Jones, partner at Boise-based firm GS Strategy Group, said the findings show Idahoans are open to getting vaccinated.
A person’s own health, and the health of those close to them, seemed to be the most important factors in deciding to get vaccinated, he said.
The state last January hired GS Strategy Group under a $3 million contract to work on the issue of vaccine uptake. The firm was to survey Idahoans about their attitudes toward the coronavirus vaccine and find ways to build confidence in the vaccines.
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The firm found last February, in a survey of a broad group of Idahoans, that many had concerns, “mostly about safety” — and those with concerns were especially “politically right of center Idahoans.”
The firm followed up last June with a survey of unvaccinated Idahoans. That survey confirmed that some Idahoans — about 30% of those not already vaccinated by then — were “definitely” not planning to roll up their sleeves. But about 41% of the unvaccinated group either planned to, or weren’t opposed to, getting the COVID-19 vaccine.
That group is where state public health officials have turned their attention. The latest survey focused on people who are undecided about vaccination, people who eagerly got vaccinated, and those who just recently chose to get a COVID-19 vaccine. What informed their decisions?
More than 58.4% of Idahoans age 5 and older have received at least one dose of COVID-19 vaccine, according to Idaho Division of Public Health data.
Idaho’s vaccination rate lags far behind the U.S. average. However, the Idahoans who got vaccinated initially have been enthusiastic about following up with a booster shot in the past few months, with 40.5% of fully vaccinated Idaho adults now boosted, compared with the national rate of 38%.
“What is the one main reason you decided to get vaccinated recently?”
There was a political divide in the answers to this question.
Idahoans who identified as Democrats or Independents were more than twice as likely as Republicans to say the impetus was a desire to prevent getting COVID-19, or to protect themselves and others.
Idahoans who identified as Republicans were more likely than Democrats or Independents to say they got vaccinated for travel, or to travel outside the U.S.
Independents, though, were more likely than others to say they got vaccinated because they were “mandated/forced to for my job/because I had to.”
There also was a racial divide in the impetus for getting vaccinated. Idahoans who said they were Black, Indigenous or persons of color were more likely than white Idahoans to say they got vaccinated to protect themselves and others from COVID-19, and more likely than white Idahoans to report getting the vaccine because of mandates, their job or another requirement.
"What is the one main reason you have not gotten it yet?"
The top three reasons Idahoans said they hadn't yet been vaccinated were:
- believing they had immunity from a previous COVID-19 infection.
- not having time or opportunity.
- wanting to see more research, evidence and testing.
BIPOC Idahoans were much more likely than white Idahoans to report not yet having the time or opportunity to get vaccinated.
Most Idahoans believe COVID-19 vaccines work
The survey took place about one week before the omicron variant came to light, with more ability to infect people who'd been vaccinated (as well as those previously infected with another variant).
About 42% of the 500 Idahoans surveyed at that point said they knew of a vaccine "breakthrough" case, where someone got infected despite immunization.
Still, a larger share of the surveyed Idahoans said they felt "safe and comfortable" returning to normal routines and being out in public with the vaccine's availability — including about 60% of the Idahoans who hadn't yet been vaccinated themselves.
About 83% of surveyed Idahoans said they believed the vaccines worked at least as well as expected; only 13% believed the vaccines performed worse than expectations.
Those who weren't yet vaccinated were almost three times more likely to believe the vaccines were underperforming.
"Has anyone close to you died from COVID-19?"
About three in every 10 Idahoans surveyed said someone close to them has died from COVID-19. That varied only slightly by party affiliation and race — with Democrats, Independents, Republicans, white and BIPOC Idahoans all losing people to the coronavirus disease.
The starkest difference was among people who remained on the fence about getting vaccinated: 80% of them said nobody close to them had died from COVID-19.
What about vaccinating children?
Nearly half of Idaho parents surveyed (48%) said they believed the COVID-19 vaccines are "very" safe for children. Another 21% said the vaccines are "safe," while 31% either didn't know or believed they're not safe. Republicans were the most likely to believe the vaccines are unsafe for kids, while Democrats and BIPOC Idahoans were most likely to believe the vaccines are safe.
Despite their confidence in the vaccines' safety profile, only 64% of Idaho parents surveyed said their children were, or would likely be, vaccinated.
More than half of parents (56%) told those taking the survey that they support adding the COVID-19 vaccine to the list of required immunizations to attend public school in Idaho (with 39% "very" supportive. About 37% opposed perfunctory vaccines for students (27% very opposed).
Democrats overwhelmingly voiced support for such mandates. Republicans were more likely to be opposed; 35% of Republican parents said they supported such mandates for schools.
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