More than half of New Jerseyans who have not yet been vaccinated said they will not get the COVID-19 inoculation, according to a June 3 report from the Rutgers-Eagleton Center for Public Interest Polling.
The report found that 57% of people not vaccinated said they will probably or definitely not get the COVID-19 vaccine, posing a challenge for the state to inoculate enough people to snuff out the virus.
Those numbers are up, in fact, from the size of the vaccine-hesitant crowd reported in an Eagleton poll from November, before the vaccine was even available, where 47% of respondents said they did not plan to get the shot.
“The enduring nature of vaccine hesitancy for a small yet notable portion of the population in New Jersey resembles what we are seeing throughout the rest of the country,” said Ashley Koning, who heads the polling center. “And while some of those unwilling may ultimately be convinced, others may not.”
She noted that of the entire population of the state, the vaccine-hesitant crowd makes up a slimmer margin: Those outright refusing accounted for 16% of the state population in the June 3 poll, compared to 40% of respondents in November.
For the June 3 poll, Eagleton surveyed 1,004 adults by phone between May 21 and 29. The margin of error was plus or minus 3.8 percentage points.
Going for the goal
Vaccine hesitancy, or outright refusal to accept a shot, continues to be one of the biggest threats to the state’s self-imposed goals of fully vaccinating 4.7 million adults by the end of this month.
Gov. Phil Murphy contends that the metric, which comes out to 70% of state adults, is vital for New Jersey to achieve full herd immunity.
“Unfortunately, we know from current data that infection, hospitalization, and death rates are currently much higher for those who are unvaccinated compared to those who are immunized,” Koning continued.
Widespread vaccinations are key to meaningfully and permanently lifting COVID-19 restrictions on business and public gatherings. Hesitancy – especially among Hispanic and African American neighborhoods – could jeopardize those efforts.
Among those in the poll who said they would not get the vaccine, 67% said they were seriously concerned about the side effects, while 58% cited government mistrust, 57% said the vaccines were rolled out too quickly, and 55% did not believe they needed to get the shot.
Forty-nine percent of respondents said they wanted to know more about how the vaccine works, and 47% cited a general mistrust in the U.S. health care system.
In addition to wariness and uncertainty about the virus, public health officials have to grapple with outright vaccine refusal, and barriers for residents to get the vaccine. Nearly half of respondents – 49% – said there was nothing that could convince them to get the vaccine.
Murphy said that state and local health officials will be going directly into communities to offer the shots to area residents.
“With close to 1,800 vaccination sites located across the state, we are now beginning to transition away from the mega-site model to the community-based model,” the governor said during a regular COVID-19 press briefing on June 2.
After the 4.7 million metric is met, Murphy said the vaccination efforts will turn toward children and teenagers under the age of 16, as the federal government greenlights the shots for younger people.
But just 36% of respondents said they will definitely take their child to get the vaccine. Another 22% were considering it, and 27% did not plan to get their child the shot. Roughly half of parents, 53%, said they would take their child to immediately get the vaccine, while another 43% said they would wait a while.