Public health experts have been concerned that the United States is facing a “vaccine wall,” with the supply of COVID-19 vaccines outstripping demand — and falling demand attributable to a refusal by the unvaccinated to get the shot rather than to a lack of supply or access. Thus, the big push in several states to entice the hesitant with everything from million-dollar lotteries (Ohio), to other cash incentives (Maryland), hunting rifles (West Virginia) and pre-paid grocery cards (California). To try to get 4.7 million New Jersey residents over age 16 inoculated before July, the administration of Gov. Phil Murphy recently added to this state’s menu of incentives; these include a “Vax Pass” that gives free access to state parks to anyone who is vaccinated.
Seventy-three percent of New Jersey residents say they have received at least one dose of the vaccine and another 10% say they will likely get immunized against the disease caused by the coronavirus, according to the latest Rutgers-Eagleton Poll.
The poll also found that 16% of residents remain unwilling to be vaccinated.
“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, an assistant research professor and director of the Eagleton Center for Public Interest Polling at Rutgers University–New Brunswick. “And while some of those unwilling may ultimately be convinced, others may not. 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.”
Among the likeliest to have received at least one dose of the vaccine, the poll found, were older residents, those with higher incomes and higher levels of education. Also, exurban (81%), suburban (77%) and urban (75%) residents were more likely to have received the shot compared to those living in other parts of the state. Politics is a key indicator too, with Republicans (32%) and independents (34 %) twice as likely as Democrats (16%) to not yet be vaccinated.
So, back to the 16% who don’t want the vaccine. Digging into their reasons, the poll found that 67% cited a concern about side effects, 58% evinced a distrust in government and 57% said the vaccines were developed and tested too quickly for their comfort. Fifty-five percent said a “major reason” for them is they feel they don’t need it. Others (49%) said they wanted to know more about how the vaccine works while 47% said too many mistakes in the medical system caused them to balk. For 33%, their principal reason to decline the COVID-19 vaccine was they just don’t get vaccines in general.
The poll also asked what would make the vaccine-hesitant change their minds. Nothing, 49% said while 8% said more information and 7% said they simply need more time.
“The results are from statewide poll of 1,004 adults contacted by live interviewers on landlines and cell phones May 21 to May29. The full sample has a margin of error of +/- 3.8 percentage points.