Survey: A third of West Michigan population hesitant to get COVID-19 vaccine

COVID-19 Vaccine

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — There is more good news than bad in the fight to control COVID-19 these days.

As fewer are people are being hospitalized or dying, a third vaccine is also available and the rate of vaccinations is beginning to climb.

But there’s concern that too many people are still expressing hesitancy towards the vaccine. It’s called vaccine alarmism.

One Spectrum Health doctor is concerned with one particular group.

“They’ve been kind of termed ‘fence-sitters,'” Dr. Russ Lampen said. “So these are people that are likely willing or would consider getting the vaccine, if they just had more information.”

That information can sometimes get lost in translation. There’s the falsehoods common to social media, but there’s also the asterisk tied to the vaccines, like its possible side effects or the efficacy of one compared to the others.

“I think sometimes people misinterpret uncertainty for claims that it’s ineffective,” Lampen said.

An EPIC-MRA poll released Tuesday shows there are numbers backing those concerns. Statewide, 70% of those surveyed say they plan on getting the vaccine and 27% say they won’t.

Concern increases in the 13-county West Michigan region, where just 64% of respondents said they would take the shot, while 33% said no. That’s not quite as low as the number in the Bay region and Northern Michigan. But it’s well below numbers out of the Detroit Metro area, where 78% of Wayne, Oakland and Macomb county residents surveyed says they’ll get vaccinated.

While there has been a concern over vaccination equity, the survey shows 71% of Blacks plan to get vaccinated and 29% say they won’t.

Older Michiganders seem more open to the vaccine: 86% of those 65 and older have or plan to get inoculated. The younger the respondent, the lower the chance of getting the shots. Just 54% of those age 18 to 34 say they’ll get the shot.

“This has the potential to cause the pandemic to linger longer,” Lampen said of the hesitancy. “And it also allows for more spread of COVID and concerns that this may allow for more variants or mutations to occur.”

Nothing’s perfect, but trials and over two months of mass vaccinations have shown the shots have dramatically decreased the severity of the illness, including cases that put people in the hospital.

“So while we may not be able to prevent every case, we can essentially turn COVID from a disease that’s killed over 500,000 people (in the U.S.) to something that would be no worse than seasonal influenza,” Lampen said.

So what’s the answer to combating vaccination alarmism? Lampen said people with questions and concerns need to turn to legitimate sources, like the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and prevention or Vaccinate West Michigan, for answers.

“Going to these more reputable sources or calling your primary care physician. These are important people to talk to and there are great resources that are able to point you in the right direction,” said Lampen, who added public health leaders need to step up their information campaigns.

“And I think as people continue to see larger and larger amounts of our population get vaccinated, and done so safely, hopefully we’ll be able to convince a number of those fence-sitters to get off the fence and roll up their sleeves,” he said.

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