As the first COVID-19 vaccines begin to reach New Hampshire’s most vulnerable populations, a new poll through the University of New Hampshire’s survey center has found that a majority of people in the state – 61 percent – plan to get a COVID-19 vaccine once it’s offered to them.
Judith Rees, a Dartmouth researcher who co-authored the study, said those numbers indicate growing trust in the vaccine among Granite Staters, likely due to new research showing the vaccine’s effectiveness. In October, only 40 percent said they would definitely or probably get a COVID-19 vaccine.
Despite that, 21 percent say they will “almost certainly not” get the vaccine.
Rees said the results are still optimistic, as many surveyed said their opinion on the vaccine could be swayed by a trusted source like their primary care provider.
“The people who might, with more information from a trusted advisor, these are the people who might change their minds,” she said.
The study found significant political and racial divides behind respondents’ answers: those who identify as white (65%) and Democrat (85%) saying that would “almost definitely” or “probably” get the shot. People who identify as non-white, Republican, resident of the North Country, or with a high school education or less said they were less likely to get vaccinated.
At an event Tuesday where the state’s first vaccinations were given, health care workers said they volunteered to go first to help build more public trust in the vaccine, and New Hampshire Department of Health and Human Services Commissioner Lori Shibinette addressed skeptics.
“We need everyone to take this vaccine,” she said.
Among survey respondents who identify as non-white, 33 percent said they would “almost certainly not” get the vaccine, while 45 percent said “probably not,” indicating that with more education their opinion could likely be swayed, Rees said.
People of color in the state have also been disproportionately represented among COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations and deaths.
“Unfortunately, the medical community has exploited and misused marginalized communities,” said Dr. Marie-Elizabeth Ramas, a family physician at Lamprey Health Care in Nashua. She says improved engagement and communication in diverse languages at a state and local level could help sway some disadvantaged groups who are hesitant about the vaccine.
“Recognizing that we cannot beat COVID without a concerted effort from everyone in the community, I think that is going to help diffuse some of the concerns and some of the questions,” she said.
State officials have said they’re working on a statewide public information campaign to educate the general public about the vaccine once it’s more widely available, with concerted efforts toward reaching disadvantaged communities, like people of color. Those efforts are still in the planning process and officials have not yet provided further details.
Some hospitals and grassroots groups say they’re working on their own efforts to connect with local disadvantaged and hard-to-reach communities.
On The Exchange Wednesday, Deputy State Epidemiologist Elizabeth Talbot said the state will be “intentionally dedicating a reserve of the vaccine at our next stages of allocation for those who have been disproportionately impacted.”