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New Study Shows Hesitation Toward COVID Vaccine Remains Strong Among Many Missouri Residents

Frank Augstein/AP
Low COVID-19 vaccination rates in Missouri may be due in part to uninsured residents not knowing that the shots are free to all.

Polling suggests that attitudes and misunderstandings among political conservatives and people with limited health care coverage may pose the biggest challenges to mass vaccination.

The rate of COVID-19 vaccinations has slowed in Missouri, and recent polling found that efforts to reach herd immunity may be challenged due to hesitation on the part of several demographic groups.

The poll mirrors similar national studies showing that politically conservative men stand as one of the doubtful groups toward vaccines, but it also shows especially low vaccination rates among the uninsured and people on Medicaid.

The report, which was produced by the Washington D.C.-based public opinion research firm American Viewpoint on behalf of the Missouri Hospital Association, concluded more education regarding vaccinations is key to boosting rates.

“Ultimately, the more information residents have regarding the vaccine, the more likely they are to be vaccinated,” the report read.

Just over a quarter of Missouri residents do not plan to get vaccinated against COVID-19, according to the polling conducted in mid-April.

The poll found many of the lowest vaccination rates among younger conservatives, people who don’t closely follow news reporting, residents of southern Missouri and the Springfield area as well as Evangelicals or born-again Christians. Members of these groups also most often said they did not plan to get vaccinated.

The most common reasons cited for not getting vaccinated include concerns that there had not been enough clinical research conducted, that the respondents were not interested in it or that they were concerned about side effects.

The impact of political affiliation

Republicans and conservatives, who generally reported the most skepticism about the vaccine, were also the most likely to have been infected with COVID-19 already, yet also the least concerned about contracting it.

The poll also showed that just 15% of people without insurance have received vaccines.

Mary Becker, senior vice president of strategic partnerships and communications for the Missouri Hospital Association, told a state’s vaccine equity group in a meeting last week that the finding suggests that many people may not know that the vaccines are provided free of cost to all.

“As we know, people who are uninsured tend not to seek care at all unless it’s an emergency,” Becker said.

Roughly one-in-four Missouri residents has been fully vaccinated, according to state data, and the polling shows that seniors and Democrats are the most likely to have received vaccines so far, with more than 75% from these groups reporting that they have already received shots.

Respondents from across demographic groups expressed high levels of trust in their own doctor or health care provider regarding vaccines, with 78% expressing confidence. Republicans and conservatives placed high levels of trust regarding the vaccines in former President Trump and Governor Mike Parson, and low levels of trust in federal health agencies, including the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Food And Drug Administration.

Some of the polling was conducted before the federal government paused the use of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine due to safety concerns, and Becker says the news may have altered some attitudes in ways that are not reflected in the report.

As a health care reporter, I aim to empower my audience to take steps to improve health care and make informed decisions as consumers and voters. I tell human stories augmented with research and data to explain how our health care system works and sometimes fails us. Email me at alexs@kcur.org.
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