Fears and misinformation still fuel reluctance to vaccinate in Illinois, new data shows
As a 52-year-old widower from Galewood who works away from home, John doesn’t think he’s at high risk of contracting COVID-19. And since COVID vaccines were only approved for emergency use by the FDA less than six months ago, John doesn’t think there’s been enough time to determine if there will be any impacts. long-term health benefits by getting vaccinated.
“I think I can avoid the virus and I think my health factors indicate I would survive COVID,” said John, a landscaper who asked that his name not be used.
He won’t get the vaccine – at least not yet. “I would like to wait until there is more data,” he said.
Fears of side effects from the shots remain the number one reason Illinois residents reject the shots, according to new statewide survey data. That, along with lingering concerns, the entire vaccine development process has been rushed – a concern John also shares – could have contributed to the slowdown in vaccinations that has plagued the state in recent weeks, the data shows.
But data released earlier this week shows there is progress, as only 38% of residents now worry about side effects, up from 53% in December. The number of Illinois who say they never get the vaccine is down to 9.3% – up slightly from last month, but down from 13.7% in the fall.
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And compared to neighboring Midwestern states, data shows Illinois now has fewer respondents who said they would never receive a COVID-19 vaccine than Indiana (15.2%), Missouri (13 , 9%), Iowa (11.7%) and Michigan. and Wisconsin (11.1%).
The Illinois data comes from a monthly health survey of approximately 1,000 consumers by the National Research Corp. (NRC Health). It highlights vaccine concerns statewide among residents each month between October and April.
Besides the side effects, an analysis of data from the Brown Institute for Media Innovation’s Documenting COVID-19 project shows that many concerns persist as vaccine deployment now enters a critical period for achieving herd immunity.
About 22.2% of respondents continued to express concern about the rushed development of the vaccine last month. Among Illinois Hispanics, the number of people who still think it was developed too quickly is five percentage points higher than the general public.
“We talk to people and they say things like, ‘I’m nervous about this, but I know I have to do this,’ said Shelly Ruzicka, spokesperson for Arise Chicago, a faith-based nonprofit that defends workers. ‘rights, including for many Latino and Polish immigrants. She said residents and staff expressed concerns, even as the group brought in medical professionals for virtual question-and-answer sessions and provided vaccine information in multiple languages.
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Other concerns have resulted from differences in political beliefs or even misinformation that has spread rapidly online and elsewhere.
Dr Vidya Sundareshan, professor of infectious diseases at the Southern Illinois University School of Medicine and a medical adviser in northern Sangamon County, said concerns have contributed to slowing vaccinations despite early progress in Springfield.
“We had come to a certain point, and that’s it, there was no movement after that,” she said. About half of the county and state are now fully vaccinated, although experts say 70 to 90 percent of them need to be vaccinated to achieve herd immunity.
“There were a lot of fears about ‘the chip’, where they were being tracked,” Sundareshan said of false claims that the vaccine contained microchips. “A lot of young women wanting to get pregnant and in this age group they worry about infertility because of this vaccine.” Experts say there is no evidence that vaccines cause infertility.
Julie Pryde, administrator of the Champaign-Urbana public health district, said: “There are political barriers that I never remember having faced before. People believe for some reason that this is a government conspiracy.
Not to mention the fact that between 3-4% of people, who go back each month to November, said they didn’t even believe COVID was real.
But to be sure, a small number of people also list more practical reasons like not having the time or a car trip as the reasons they didn’t get a photo.
More intensive community outreach is key to countering vaccine reluctance, said Dr. William Parker, assistant professor of critical care pulmonary medicine and deputy director of the MacLean Center for Medical Ethics at the University of Chicago. Many neighborhoods on the south side, not far from the university, still have some of the lowest vaccination rates in the city.
“We need to be convincing to remove as many barriers as possible,” Parker said.
Contributor: Manny Ramos
Kyra Senese is a journalist for the Brown Institute for Media Innovation COVID-19 Documentation Project, an open-file collaborative journalism initiative comprised of researchers from Columbia and Stanford universities.