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.