By Julie Havlak
Carolina Journal News Service
RALEIGH — Most North Carolinians don’t approve of the state’s vaccine rollout.
More North Carolinians favor getting the COVID-19 vaccine, but that doesn’t mean they can, according to an Elon University Poll of nearly 1,500 residents conducted Jan. 29-31.
Elon released the poll just hours before Gov. Roy Cooper held a news conference announcing a new executive order that increases efforts to serve communities, seeks fairness in vaccine distribution, and further commits state resources to administering vaccines.
The order allows state officials to expand the list of providers who may have authority to administer COVID-19 vaccines, a news release says. Providers with this authority will now include dentists licensed in North Carolina.
“We are embedding equity into all aspects of our vaccine plan and holding ourselves and vaccine providers accountable for ensuring that underserved and marginalized communities have access to vaccines,” said Dr. Mandy Cohen, state health secretary.
That’s the plan, anyway.
Vaccine distribution in North Carolina, many residents tell pollsters, has been many things. Fair probably isn’t one of them.
Supplies are still low, which isn’t necessarily the fault of state officials. The state has administered about $1.4 million doses of the vaccine. About 18% of eligible black people in N.C. — black people account for about 22% of the state’s population — have received vaccines, up from 11% last week.
“Many people have to wait, and I know that is frustrating,” said Cohen.
But words do little to help people who can’t get or even schedule an appointment for a vaccine.
Some 63% say they weren’t able to access any appointments at a nearby location. The difficulties have tanked approval ratings, with only 37% of respondents giving their approval to the state’s vaccine distribution.
Some 9.2% of North Carolinians got their first shot of COVID-19 vaccines by Tuesday, Feb. 9. The state has administered a total of 1,390,947 doses, according to data from the N.C. Department of Health and Human Services.
North Carolina ranks 24th in the nation for getting shots it has received from the federal government distributed and into arms. The state got off to a rocky start, and it ranked among the bottom 10 states before late picking up its pace in late January.
Almost 70% of North Carolinians now plan to get a vaccine, a major improvement from 33% in October and up from 40.5% in December.
That will help the state in its fight to achieve herd immunity. But the study also found little evidence that the state’s messaging is swaying those already suspicious of vaccines.
Almost two-thirds of residents remain worried about potential side-effects of a vaccine. Just 15% of respondents said they were “not worried at all.”
A fifth of respondents said they will refuse the vaccine, and almost a fourth remained unsure about getting vaccinated against COVID-19. Republicans were more likely than Democrats to express skepticism, with 26% of Republicans and only 14% of Democrats refusing the vaccine. Women are more likely to get vaccinated than men.
In the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines’ clinical trials, most side-effects proved mild or moderate with chills, headaches, and tiredness. The side effects usually last less than a week, with extremely rare exceptions.
“Hesitancy about COVID-19 vaccines has declined substantially among North Carolina residents since we started tracking vaccine intentions last October,” Jason Husser, director of the Elon Poll and associate professor of political science, says in a news release. “However, we did not find evidence that many in the ‘no’ camp are changing their minds, and the vast majority of the state remains at least a little worried about adverse side effects.”