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Poll Shows Fewer Than Half Of Vermonters Eager To Take Vaccine

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While no COVID-19 vaccine is currently ready for the public, if one were to become available in the next year, less than half of Vermonters said they'd be very or somewhat eager to get it.

When the nation's top expert on infectious disease joined Gov. Scott in last week’s COVID-19 press conference, a key part of his message was to reassure the public on vaccine safety.

Dr. Anthony Fauci, Director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, told Vermonters that if a vaccine is approved, he’d take it. But a new VPR-Vermont PBS poll indicates less than half of Vermonters feel likewise.

Full September VPR-Vermont PBS 2020 Poll Results

The question posed to poll respondents was this: If a vaccine for COVID-19 were developed in the next 12 months, how eager or reticent would you be to get it as early as possible?

Some 48% said they would be very or somewhat eager to take the vaccine, while 43% leaned the other way, saying they would be somewhat or very reticent. Another 9% weren’t sure or refused to answer.

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Credit Nina Keck / VPR
Dr. Peter Hogenkamp of Rutland said as COVID-19 has been politicized, more of his patients are expressing skepticism about a potential vaccine, worried the process has been too rushed.

Dr. Peter Hogenkamp and his wife have shared a family medicine practice in Rutland for more than 20 years, and together they treat about 4,000 patients. Hogenkamp says almost every single person coming in has asked about a vaccine.

“They’re very interested in it,” he said. “And oftentimes, the first question they give me is, 'Will you take the vaccine?' And my answer is, 'Yes.'”

Hogenkamp says that’s when he turns the tables and asks his patients: “What about you? How do you feel about taking the vaccine?”

More from Brave Little State: When It's Ready, Who Gets The COVID-19 Vaccine First?

Three or four months ago, as he and his wife were conducting an informal poll, Hogenkamp says they felt like about 70% of their patients were saying they would get a COVID-19 vaccine.

But recently, it's been "one out of two at best,” he said, shaking his head.

“A lot of patients are losing faith in the vaccine because of political issues," Hogenkamp said. "And I think a lot of people feel like they're rushing it, and they don't want to be kind of a guinea pig for a rushed vaccine."

A green, yellow and blue pie chart
Credit Kyle Blair / VPR
The latest VPR-Vermont PBS poll shows nearly half of Vermonters feel somewhat or very reticent about receiving a vaccine if one becomes available in the next year.

Results from the new VPR-Vermont PBS poll reflect that lack of confidence. Data was collected the first two weeks of September, and the poll's margin of error is 4%.

Attitudes about the vaccine were fairly consistent across Vermont, though there were some differences. People in Vermont’s four southern-most counties were least likely to say they'd get vaccinated: Just 37% said they were eager compared with 61% of Chittenden County residents.

Men were more willing to take the vaccine than women, and Democrats were a little more eager than Republicans or Independents.

How much schooling people have also impacted their answers in the poll: 39% of those with a high school education said they were eager to take the vaccine.  But that number jumped to 59% among those with a college or graduate degree.

"All of our patients have been so good about masking, about social distancing, about paying attention to what has to be done. My guess is that when the time comes, they'll weigh the pros and cons, and hopefully the messaging will be good, and hopefully it will be a good vaccine, and we'll see exactly how they feel about it." — Nicole Valcour, nurse case manager in Barre

Nicole Valcour, however, is leery of poll numbers on a vaccine this early. Valcour is a nurse case manager at the People's Health and Wellness Clinic in Barre, one of a network of free health clinics in Vermont.

"There's enough fear in the community,” she says. “All of our patients have been so good about masking, about social distancing, about paying attention to what has to be done. My guess is that when the time comes, they'll weigh the pros and cons, and hopefully the messaging will be good, and hopefully it will be a good vaccine, and we'll see exactly how they feel about it.”

Valcour believes when she's sitting across from patients and recommending they get vaccinated, most will.

"It could be the most effective vaccine on the face of the Earth. If people aren't taking it, it's not going to work." — Dr. Peter Hogenkamp, Rutland

Peter Hogenkamp explained that Vermont could achieve herd immunity without every single person getting the vaccine.

“Obviously, we want 100% of people to take the vaccine, to wipe it out. But if, let's say, 80% of people get the vaccine, that really, really cuts down on the spread of the of the virus," he said.

But we’re nowhere near that. And Hogenkamp pointed to the seasonal flu as an analogy: While he recommends everyone get a flu shot, he said fewer than half of his patients do, and he ends up treating a lot of flu cases.

More from VPR: Scott Administration Considers Flu Vaccine Mandate For Vermont Children

"So the 50% number isn't enough," Hogenkamp said. "I am worried about that. And I really wish they would depoliticize this whole vaccine issue. It's a great misfortune that that we've politicized the COVID vaccine, because if the studies come out, and the studies show — as I think they will, I'm confident that they will — that this vaccine works, I want people to take it."

He added with a shrug of the shoulders: "It could be the most effective vaccine on the face of the earth. If people aren't taking it, it's not going to work.”

Have questions, comments or tips? Send us a message or get in touch with reporter Nina Keck @NinaPKeck.

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A green and blue logo that says "VPR - Vermont PBS 2020 Polls"

From Sept. 3 to Sept. 15, the VPR - Vermont PBS 2020 Poll asked hundreds of Vermonters how they felt about political candidates, a COVID-19 vaccine, retail marijuana and other issues.  Explore the full results here.

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