New polling data from the Mississippi State Department of Health suggests the general population is not as vaccine-hesitant as some might perceive it to be.

In a poll of 11,000 state residents conducted from the beginning of the year through March 1, 73.2 percent said they intend to take the COVID-19 vaccine (“definitely or likely”) when it is available to them. However, only 52 percent said they plan to have their children get the vaccine in a vaccine confidence survey conducted by the Mississippi Community Engagement Alliance Against COVID-19 Disparities and the MSDH Office of Preventive Health and Health Equity.

Only 10.2 percent of respondents said they do not intend to get the shot. Those in the undecided category totaled 16.6 percent.

While those 65 and older have been motivated to seek the shot, State Health Officer Thomas Dobbs believes younger adults will be the most difficult to persuade to vaccinate.

“As we get down to the younger folks who are more healthy, it’s going to take a little bit more to help them really understand what the benefit is really going to be for them going forward,” he said.

State Epidemiologist Paul Byers said young people who have previously been infected still need to get the shot.

“Just being infected previously is not a full protection,” he said.

Asian Mississippians are most intent on vaccinating, at 80.8 percent; followed by White, 80.5 percent; American Indian, 66.3 percent; Latino, 61.3 percent; and Black, 56.3 percent.

Men expressed more interest in getting the shot, at 78 percent, versus 68.4 percent among women.

The inclination by age diminishes from 92.3 percent at age 65 and older to 47.2 percent for those under 35.

“We knew we were going to have trouble getting younger folks immunized,” said Dobbs. “It’s the same thing we have seen with flu shots and other things. That’s going to be a continued uphill climb, especially now that we’re seeing pretty modest numbers of COVID and very few deaths. The urgency is not there. But the COVID pandemic is not over. We have variants coming. We have a good number of people who are not immune. So we don’t need to give up the fight.”

Political affiliation is one area where the survey deviated somewhat in its findings from others, with minimal variation among Mississippians based on party affiliation.

Among “vaccine-hesitant” Mississippians, 23.6 percent said they would likely get the vaccine if their regular primary care doctor encouraged them to do so; 20.8 percent would if a parent or close relative encouraged them to do so; 16.3 percent would if the CDC encouraged them to do so, and 14.1 percent would if the MSDH and state health officer encouraged them to do so.

Staff Writer

Jebb Johnston is a 1991 Alcorn Central High School graduate and a 1995 Ole Miss journalism graduate. His primary beats are city and county government.

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