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Survey finds persistent minority is resistant to COVID-19 vaccinations

Santa Clara County officials seek ways to keep immunization momentum going

El Camino Health registered nurse Lylin Legaspi gives Renee Rios the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine at an El Camino Health vaccination site in Sunnyvale on April 2, 2021. Photo by Magali Gauthier.

A survey of Santa Clara County residents to understand their attitudes toward the COVID-19 pandemic and vaccines could help health officials understand what might prevent the remaining roughly 25% of adult residents from getting vaccinated or completing their second dose.

The EMC Research survey of 1,000 county residents, the fifth conducted since May 2020, found that optimism has rebounded since the winter infection surge, and concerns related to COVID-19 have waned. About 74% of respondents said they have been either fully or partially vaccinated and 9% said they are interested in being vaccinated soon. But the remainder — about 16% — expressed some hesitancy or outright resistance to receiving the vaccine.

Nearly 71% of residents ages 16 and older who are currently eligible for the vaccines have received at least one dose, with 43% having completed the two-shot regimen, county COVID-19 testing and vaccine officer Dr. Marty Fenstersheib said.

County officials have seen the number of vaccine appointments drop by half. A seven-day rolling average of 30,000 total doses administered per day in the past few weeks has now dropped to 15,000 per day, Fenstersheib said.

The survey found that among people who haven't gotten the vaccine, 5% are "vaccine hesitant." Another 5% said they would only receive the vaccine if it is required. An additional 6% flatly said they would not get vaccinated. Men, people of color and Republicans had the highest percentages of resistance: 27% of men ages 18 to 44; 15% of men ages 45 to 64; 22% of people of color and 18% of Latinos. About 30% who are Republicans are resistant, the survey found. The survey margin of error is about 3.1%.

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The top three reasons that have held back vaccine-hesitant respondents from getting immunized are due to side effects and safety (45%); not enough research (19%); and lack of time or availability (13%). Residents who are resistant and would not get the vaccine at all cited the same top reasons at the same percentages. In addition, 57% who would not get a vaccine at all said nothing would change their minds.

Of the people who would only take the vaccine if it is required, about 37% cited safety concerns and 21% said there is not enough research. But they differed from the other two groups in one significant way: 22% said they felt the vaccine was not needed or was unwanted. About 38% of the cohort who would only get vaccinated if mandated later said they might get the vaccine with more time and research, however.

The biggest hurdle among people who want the vaccine and those who are hesitant is its perceived availability and the timing or logistics to get to appointments, the survey found.

Many also expressed concern regarding vaccine safety.

Overall, nearly 1 in 5 respondents (about 19%) think they can get COVID-19 from the vaccine. A persistent minority since the previous survey in January (about 10%) think COVID-19 vaccines are unsafe or are not effective.

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The portion who believe in the vaccine's safety and efficacy has grown, the researchers said. Opinions also depended on the vaccine type. More than 80% of respondents agreed that the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines are safe compared to 52% for Johnson & Johnson's Janssen vaccine.

Many respondents in all cohorts have ideas about post-vaccination behaviors at odds with recommendations by health experts. One-third of respondents said vaccines prevent people from needing to get tested for COVID-19, to wear masks and to socially distance; 70% agreed that the vaccine prevents people from spreading the disease to others; and 38% reported that they don't need to be tested after getting vaccinated. A small number — 17% — said they don't need a vaccine if they have already had COVID-19, the survey found.

Many county residents are feeling much better about the pandemic than they did in January and more are increasingly going out and engaging in activities. The number of people who have been vaccinated and the shrinking number of infections play a role in residents' increasing comfort level, the researchers concluded.

There are limits, however. Many people think vaccinations should be required before engaging in activities that put people in close contact with others. The survey found that 76% of people agree vaccinations should be required for people to attend professional sports and concerts; 75% think vaccines should be mandated to fly on a plane; and 74% think people who work indoors with others should be required to be vaccinated, the survey found.

Find comprehensive coverage on the Midpeninsula's response to the new coronavirus by Palo Alto Online, the Mountain View Voice and the Almanac here.

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Survey finds persistent minority is resistant to COVID-19 vaccinations

Santa Clara County officials seek ways to keep immunization momentum going

by / Palo Alto Weekly

Uploaded: Wed, May 5, 2021, 9:51 am

A survey of Santa Clara County residents to understand their attitudes toward the COVID-19 pandemic and vaccines could help health officials understand what might prevent the remaining roughly 25% of adult residents from getting vaccinated or completing their second dose.

The EMC Research survey of 1,000 county residents, the fifth conducted since May 2020, found that optimism has rebounded since the winter infection surge, and concerns related to COVID-19 have waned. About 74% of respondents said they have been either fully or partially vaccinated and 9% said they are interested in being vaccinated soon. But the remainder — about 16% — expressed some hesitancy or outright resistance to receiving the vaccine.

Nearly 71% of residents ages 16 and older who are currently eligible for the vaccines have received at least one dose, with 43% having completed the two-shot regimen, county COVID-19 testing and vaccine officer Dr. Marty Fenstersheib said.

County officials have seen the number of vaccine appointments drop by half. A seven-day rolling average of 30,000 total doses administered per day in the past few weeks has now dropped to 15,000 per day, Fenstersheib said.

The survey found that among people who haven't gotten the vaccine, 5% are "vaccine hesitant." Another 5% said they would only receive the vaccine if it is required. An additional 6% flatly said they would not get vaccinated. Men, people of color and Republicans had the highest percentages of resistance: 27% of men ages 18 to 44; 15% of men ages 45 to 64; 22% of people of color and 18% of Latinos. About 30% who are Republicans are resistant, the survey found. The survey margin of error is about 3.1%.

The top three reasons that have held back vaccine-hesitant respondents from getting immunized are due to side effects and safety (45%); not enough research (19%); and lack of time or availability (13%). Residents who are resistant and would not get the vaccine at all cited the same top reasons at the same percentages. In addition, 57% who would not get a vaccine at all said nothing would change their minds.

Of the people who would only take the vaccine if it is required, about 37% cited safety concerns and 21% said there is not enough research. But they differed from the other two groups in one significant way: 22% said they felt the vaccine was not needed or was unwanted. About 38% of the cohort who would only get vaccinated if mandated later said they might get the vaccine with more time and research, however.

The biggest hurdle among people who want the vaccine and those who are hesitant is its perceived availability and the timing or logistics to get to appointments, the survey found.

Many also expressed concern regarding vaccine safety.

Overall, nearly 1 in 5 respondents (about 19%) think they can get COVID-19 from the vaccine. A persistent minority since the previous survey in January (about 10%) think COVID-19 vaccines are unsafe or are not effective.

The portion who believe in the vaccine's safety and efficacy has grown, the researchers said. Opinions also depended on the vaccine type. More than 80% of respondents agreed that the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines are safe compared to 52% for Johnson & Johnson's Janssen vaccine.

Many respondents in all cohorts have ideas about post-vaccination behaviors at odds with recommendations by health experts. One-third of respondents said vaccines prevent people from needing to get tested for COVID-19, to wear masks and to socially distance; 70% agreed that the vaccine prevents people from spreading the disease to others; and 38% reported that they don't need to be tested after getting vaccinated. A small number — 17% — said they don't need a vaccine if they have already had COVID-19, the survey found.

Many county residents are feeling much better about the pandemic than they did in January and more are increasingly going out and engaging in activities. The number of people who have been vaccinated and the shrinking number of infections play a role in residents' increasing comfort level, the researchers concluded.

There are limits, however. Many people think vaccinations should be required before engaging in activities that put people in close contact with others. The survey found that 76% of people agree vaccinations should be required for people to attend professional sports and concerts; 75% think vaccines should be mandated to fly on a plane; and 74% think people who work indoors with others should be required to be vaccinated, the survey found.

Find comprehensive coverage on the Midpeninsula's response to the new coronavirus by Palo Alto Online, the Mountain View Voice and the Almanac here.

Comments

Jon Castor
Registered user
Woodside
on May 5, 2021 at 11:14 am
Jon Castor, Woodside
Registered user
on May 5, 2021 at 11:14 am

Thank you for publicizing this study. Hopefully more and more people will come to see the vaccine as a good thing and seek out the shot for their own good and for the good of others. Requiring proof of vaccination or a negative test for participation in certain activities that involve close contact with others is certainly going to be part of our future for a while, so the hassle factor associated with that may encourage fence sitters who are not firmly opposed to just do it!


NeilsonBuchanan
Registered user
Downtown North
on May 5, 2021 at 11:20 am
NeilsonBuchanan, Downtown North
Registered user
on May 5, 2021 at 11:20 am

Thanks, Palo Alto Online
I will post on Nextdoor for my neighborhood.


No heat
Registered user
Fairmeadow
on May 5, 2021 at 11:28 am
No heat, Fairmeadow
Registered user
on May 5, 2021 at 11:28 am

For those concerned about side effects - most of us have minimal ones. I took Pfizer. Neither I nor any of the other people needed immediate medical attention. The second dose had very slight effects too; I went to bed early the day after taking it. That's it.

Get yours too: Web Link


Christian Scientist
Registered user
Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 5, 2021 at 11:33 am
Christian Scientist, Another Palo Alto neighborhood
Registered user
on May 5, 2021 at 11:33 am

>> The top three reasons that have held back vaccine-hesitant respondents from getting immunized are due to side effects and safety (45%); not enough research (19%); and lack of time or availability (13%).

^ Side effects and safety + not enough research are legitimate concerns along with the fact that the Covid-19 ivirus is rapidly mutating.

While there are no guarantees in life, until the coronavirus vaccines are deemed 100% safe and effective, there will be those reluctant to get vaccinated.

Besides, the wearing of face masks, maintaining safe distancing, and avoiding unecessary public gatherings were effective measures prior to the release of these new and unverified. vaccines.

Better to be a recluse than take chances.


MBH
Registered user
Duveneck/St. Francis
on May 5, 2021 at 11:57 am
MBH, Duveneck/St. Francis
Registered user
on May 5, 2021 at 11:57 am

The White House Covid-19 Task Force gives on-line briefings every Monday, Wednesday and Friday. Go to: Web Link.

This morning the briefing included extensive information on the safety of the vaccines, including comparing the nation-wide extremely small number of people experiencing side effects compared with very serious medical/physical consequences of getting the virus. They also provided a slide presentation which showed test results demonstrating that the primary vaccines available in the US - Pfizer and Moderna - were highly, nearly 100%, effective against the majority of the Covid strains now rampant in various states.

If you want to get the latest information from the scientists and others who are in charge of the US Vaccine effort, listen to these broadcasts.


No heat
Registered user
Fairmeadow
on May 5, 2021 at 11:58 am
No heat, Fairmeadow
Registered user
on May 5, 2021 at 11:58 am

Oh yes "Christian Scientist" because *not* getting vaccinated isn't safe either - the lack of vaccination has killed over half a million Americans, something around 1% of Americans who get infected.

Taking the vaccine carries a one-in-a-million risk or less and cuts your risk of infection by 90% or more. That's a fantastic improvement - you're probably more likely to die from a crash crash on your way to get the vaccine than from the vaccine itself.


Consider Your Options.
Registered user
Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 5, 2021 at 1:01 pm
Consider Your Options. , Another Palo Alto neighborhood
Registered user
on May 5, 2021 at 1:01 pm
Novelera
Registered user
Midtown
on May 5, 2021 at 2:27 pm
Novelera, Midtown
Registered user
on May 5, 2021 at 2:27 pm

Darwin at work. I love it. A Zoom class I take regularly featured a person presenting some "facts" about dangers of the coronavirus vaccine. Everyone on the call was appalled. In my opinion, getting the vaccine was not just about protecting myself. It was about reaching the "herd immunity" level that would protect others. And, also, Dr. Murthy on the PBS News Hour mentioned that having large numbers of unvaccinated people gives the virus more of a chance to evolve into the new variants that are so scary.


The Voice of Palo Alto
Registered user
Crescent Park
on May 5, 2021 at 3:53 pm
The Voice of Palo Alto, Crescent Park
Registered user
on May 5, 2021 at 3:53 pm
Jane
Registered user
Ventura
on May 6, 2021 at 1:02 am
Jane, Ventura
Registered user
on May 6, 2021 at 1:02 am

It is NOT unreasonable at all for some people to want to wait and observe for a bit longer until we've gone a month or two without additional serious side effects popping up. Lots of people have different risk profiles such as family histories that make them more cautious or potentially more prone to those effects.

Stop ridiculing people who are different from you and stop politicizing caution. It just make people suspicious and pushes them away.


Jane
Registered user
Ventura
on May 6, 2021 at 1:08 am
Jane, Ventura
Registered user
on May 6, 2021 at 1:08 am

[Post removed; successive comments are not permitted.]


Err On The Side Of Caution
Registered user
Professorville
on May 6, 2021 at 8:55 am
Err On The Side Of Caution, Professorville
Registered user
on May 6, 2021 at 8:55 am

[Post removed due to same poster using multiple names]


No heat
Registered user
Fairmeadow
on May 6, 2021 at 8:57 am
No heat, Fairmeadow
Registered user
on May 6, 2021 at 8:57 am

@Jane you're into the realm of the silly here. Even for the fit and young, COVID-19 kills around one per thousand. That's a vastly higher risk than the vaccines, where the risk of driving to go get vaccinated far exceeds the risk from vaccination itself.


No heat
Registered user
Fairmeadow
on May 6, 2021 at 9:04 am
No heat, Fairmeadow
Registered user
on May 6, 2021 at 9:04 am

[Post removed; successive comments are not permitted.]


The Voice of Palo Alto
Registered user
Crescent Park
on May 6, 2021 at 9:30 am
The Voice of Palo Alto, Crescent Park
Registered user
on May 6, 2021 at 9:30 am
CalAveLocal
Registered user
Evergreen Park
on May 6, 2021 at 10:06 am
CalAveLocal, Evergreen Park
Registered user
on May 6, 2021 at 10:06 am

@Jane, so just out of curiosity - you do realize that first people were vaccinated back in December; so it has been close to 6 months. Why would you suggest waiting longer? I think 6 months is proof enough that the vaccines are safe and effective. Nothing is ever 100% safe and effective, but safe and effective enough...


Nayeli
Registered user
Midtown
on May 6, 2021 at 10:27 am
Nayeli, Midtown
Registered user
on May 6, 2021 at 10:27 am

Great info! I'd add one other category that might cause people to not become vaccinated: People who are simply unsure where to go for vaccination.

I've spoken with lower-income residents here in Palo Alto who don't know where to go. They said that the Santa Clara County COVID-19 website pushes people toward places in San Jose or Milpitas.

I explained that the vaccine is available at local hospitals. Their response is that they don't have insurance with those particular hospitals. I then explain that they can get vaccinated ANYWHERE -- regardless of hospital or insurance. Even then, they aren't sure that what I am telling them is accurate.

It would help if the county and city would explain this clearly. It might help those who are still confused.


No heat
Registered user
Fairmeadow
on May 6, 2021 at 10:49 am
No heat, Fairmeadow
Registered user
on May 6, 2021 at 10:49 am

@ Nayeli It's worth mentioning that the county vaccination program website Web Link currently lists the Mountain View Community Center as a vaccination site, even if most locations are further south. They've got Pfizer, so anybody 16+ can get vaccinated there at no charge.


Fr0hickey
Registered user
Old Palo Alto
on May 6, 2021 at 11:02 am
Fr0hickey, Old Palo Alto
Registered user
on May 6, 2021 at 11:02 am

Agree with the ones calling for the halt in politicizing this issue. Either we are free to take or not take the vaccine (my body, my choice) or we are not and have the defunded police go door-to-door and round up the unvaccinated.
Your freedom ends where mine starts. Your desire for herd immunity does not include forcing others to take the vaccine.


No heat
Registered user
Fairmeadow
on May 6, 2021 at 1:40 pm
No heat, Fairmeadow
Registered user
on May 6, 2021 at 1:40 pm

Your freedom to swing your fist ends at the tip of my nose.

Choosing to get a communicable disease instead of taking a vaccine puts everybody else around you at risk.


Mondoman
Registered user
Green Acres
on May 6, 2021 at 3:39 pm
Mondoman, Green Acres
Registered user
on May 6, 2021 at 3:39 pm

The vaccine aside, surveys like the one reported here are not scientific because of the inability to survey a random sample of county residents. Not only are the days of lists of landlines for a given area long gone, cell phones and fractional response rates make a mockery of survey companies' claims. Palo Alto Online can do better than to spread such pseudo-scientific claims.


Reason
Registered user
Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 7, 2021 at 7:13 pm
Reason, Another Palo Alto neighborhood
Registered user
on May 7, 2021 at 7:13 pm

I'm going to be very frank about why I haven't been vaccinated yet despite wanted to be vaccinated.

I had Covid before the lockdowns, and while I was not hospitalized, I would not want to get it again. I have had 2 antibody tests, at 6 months, and 12 months after, both positive, the latter fairly recent. At first, I did not get my shot because I was waiting for others more vulnerable to get theirs while things were in short supply. Now I would like to get my shot but don't feel I can yet.

I have reasons related to my personal health history that my doctor has recommended a particular vaccine. Every time I have tried to make an appointment with that specific vaccine, I've been told I can't specify, even though the local PAMF system said I could. I don't want to schedule my week around this vaccine only to have to walk away.

Secondly, I know some people who had it and were vaccinated, and got so sick after the 2nd dose -- and given reports, they are not alone -- they wished they had gotten only one dose. I have read that experts are considering whether to recommend if people who had it might be okay with one dose of the two dose vaccines. I am watching and hoping the guidelines will change for people who have already been sick and show lasting antibodies.

My child had a mild case when I had mine and has not had antibody tests but we're wondering if it might be a good idea first. But Pfizer which is recommended for young people is a 2shot. We don't think there's any point in getting a blood test unless it will be meaningful for a decision for a 2nd shot, and don't want to get a 1st shot before knowing and then be forced to get a 2-dose for school while in online school right now (it's stressful enough without missing a lot of time because of a 2nd dose for someone w/previous infection).

Reasonable updates to official guidance for people with demonstrated antibodies would help.


Tanya
Registered user
College Terrace
on May 8, 2021 at 7:42 am
Tanya, College Terrace
Registered user
on May 8, 2021 at 7:42 am

Reason: you can easily find out which pharmacies offer which vaccine and just go there for the specific vaccine (i.e. CVS is mostly Moderna, whereas Wallgreens is mostly Pfizer). At this point in time, you can totally chose the type of vaccine, since there is so much available.

Re getting sick from the second shot, yes, I did too, it is your immune system mounting a protective response, and unlike getting sick from the virus (which can literally kill you and kill others), this reaction ot the vaccine has no further consequences that feeling poorly for 1-2 days.

Getting vaccinated is a personal responsibility and also a public health responsibility. We have people that have serious health base reasons for not getting vaccinated, for example pregnant women, and for now also children (not eligible). When eligible folks are reluctant and do not get vaccinated, they are putting everyone else at risk.


Reason
Registered user
Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 8, 2021 at 9:30 am
Reason, Another Palo Alto neighborhood
Registered user
on May 8, 2021 at 9:30 am

@Tanya,
I appreciate your post, but it does not help the situation.It would help if you take a moment to understand the specific concerns.

We are talking here about vaccine hesitancy--I hoped to give some insight into why people who had Covid before may hesitate.Badgering, shaming & lecturing people rather than engaging to solve problems has never been an effective strategy to improve vaccination rates.

Since you understand that getting vaccinated is a public health responsibility please spend some time educating yourself personally about what the barriers are to help other people & helping to lower those barriers.

People who had Covid before they get their shots can get much sicker than just feeling poorly for 1-2 days. They get as sick after the first shot as those who were never infected get after the second & their response to the 2nd can be much worse.
Web Link
"those who had been previously infected responded to the first jab by generating high antibody levels, comparable to the amounts seen after the second dose in people who had never been infected."

A person who had previously been infected was quoted: “I was actually more ill after the vaccine than I was with Covid.” Consistent with the experience of others I know.

I still have a demonstrated, robust antibody response a year later, and other health problems that make the prospect of getting as sick as others I have witnessed in that situation a serious concern.Given my history, I also have little reasons to trust healthcare provider YET still want to get vaccinated.

Updated guidelines 4 people who had previous Covid infection & persistent antibody response to 1-shot (per a dr order) would help address the barriers for a lot of people like me who are waiting now. (If you must know, I also have mobility problems--added to the robust antibody response and social distancing, I am no risk--didn't even give my spouse Covid then)


Reason
Registered user
Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 8, 2021 at 9:42 am
Reason, Another Palo Alto neighborhood
Registered user
on May 8, 2021 at 9:42 am

Additionally, ignoring warning signs about problems faced by various groups will only result in mistrust down the road. It is natural that those who had no barriers to getting their vaccination would be vaccinated fastest. For those who have legitimate concerns, many can be resolved by understanding and lowering those barriers.

Ignoring them is asking for a reason down the road that destroys future trust in such measures.

Luckily, it seems public health officials are working hard to try to understand and work on the issue. I made my post hoping to provide information that others may hesitate to provide, in order to help those in public health working on the issue.

If more and more people who had Covid previously get very sick after their 2nd shot, especially if their concerns and experiences seem suppressed or ignored, if that 2nd shot is actually not really necessary for them specifically, then failing to update those guidelines could ultimately undermine confidence in the public health recommendations overall. I think making an updated recommendation for people who have had previous Covid infection and demonstrated antibody response could help take care of another slice of the remaining group.


maguro_01
Registered user
Mountain View
on May 21, 2021 at 6:00 pm
maguro_01, Mountain View
Registered user
on May 21, 2021 at 6:00 pm

Reason's concerns seem reasonable and we may presume are being researched. That very
rare blood clot problem apparently now has a treatment and is known to be also a rare occurrence with warfarin dosage.

Most of the vaccine resistance is politicized and being provided with rationales by a small industry of Web sites making money sowing fear and bogus cures (eg nebulizers and H2O2). Or "political" commentators from the extreme Right. One on Fox has been pronounced an entertainer only by a judge and to not be taken seriously. But when he starts advocating or disparaging a medical treatment in a pandemic, he is no longer harmless. He has few qualifications as a journalist and none as a doctor. We even have to use the word "immunization" with the resistors as the word "vaccine" often sets them off.

It's lucky that the disease is not more lethal, but the number of resistors is still too large in some areas that may end up with many people effectively quarantined. There will always be a few people with good reasons why they can't get some vaccine or another. They are normally covered by herd immunity where they live. That apparently won't work if a quarter or more of the population refuses; indeed the US might not achieve herd immunity and the disease will always be with us.

One Ayn Rand follower told me that we should not be exporting vaccine as he is not his brother's keeper. But, of course, in the case of a pandemic vaccine he is even if his calculation is in his narrowest self interest. The more of the virus that exists, the greater the chance of a dangerous mutation which would make its way here. Political and philosophical differences are one thing, but I believe some of our neighbor's moral compasses are spinning. After things calm down a bit, if they do, here in the US it can be determined what worked and what didn't and how to organize more quickly. Another plague might spread differently. But we need general public buy in and we may not get it.


James Waters Ph.D.
Registered user
Stanford
on May 23, 2021 at 8:42 am
James Waters Ph.D., Stanford
Registered user
on May 23, 2021 at 8:42 am

U.S. Senator Rand Paul (R-Kentucky) who is also an MD (Opthalmology) announced publicly
that he will not be getting vaccinated because having contracted Covid-19 earlier he is now protected by natural immunity.

To date, only the smallpox virus has successfully been eradicated via innoculation as the other viruses are far more resilient in terms of mutation and potential carriers.

As the coronavirus continues to mutate, booster shots may become standard seasonal precautions like a flu shot


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