A third of Georgia adults reluctant to take vaccine, AJC poll finds

Registered nurse Aleve Reed administers a COVID-19 vaccine during an event Jan. 16, 2021, at Mercedes-Benz Stadium for Fulton County School employees and their spouses who are 65 and older. (Photo: Ben Gray for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution)
Registered nurse Aleve Reed administers a COVID-19 vaccine during an event Jan. 16, 2021, at Mercedes-Benz Stadium for Fulton County School employees and their spouses who are 65 and older. (Photo: Ben Gray for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution)

Credit: Ben Gray / Ben@BenGray.com

Credit: Ben Gray / Ben@BenGray.com

Retired nurse Connie McDonald takes several precautions to protect herself from COVID-19.

The Griffin resident, who is 70, said she and her husband wear masks when they go out. They wash their hands frequently. She takes vitamin C twice a day.

Yet, like a significant percentage of Georgians, McDonald is in no hurry to get the COVID-19 vaccines. She said she worries about potential long-term harm from vaccines.

“I want to be cautious,” she said. “I may learn to regret it that I didn’t take it sooner. I’d rather just wait and see.”

According to a poll conducted for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, 62% of Georgia registered voters would get a vaccine if scientists found it to be safe, but 34% would not do so.

Vaccine reluctance is a challenge for state officials and medical leaders who are counting on vaccines to bring the pandemic under control. Georgia Department of Public Health officials said they’ve heard only 30% of workers at some health care facilities eligible to get vaccinated have signed up for inoculations.

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In Georgia, vaccine hesitancy is higher among women; adults 29 years old and younger; and those who identify themselves as conservative, the poll showed. Georgians who describe themselves as liberal and people who are 65 or older are the most willing to get vaccinated, according to the results.

The poll showed little difference among racial groups.

The main reasons people are not willing to be vaccinated are they distrust the health system or they want to see how well the vaccine works, the poll found.

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Gillsville resident Amanda Roberts, 42, who tested positive for COVID-19 in July, said she’s seen conflicting information about the disease. She wants more details about the vaccine’s effectiveness.

“I have no objections to getting it, but I am not necessarily rushing to get it,” said Roberts, a waitress who previously served in the U.S. Army.

Gov. Brian Kemp listens as Dr. Kathleen Toomey, Commissioner of Georgia Department of Public Health, gives remarks during a COVID-19 update press conference at the Georgia State Capitol Building in Atlanta on Jan. 21. (Alyssa Pointer / Alyssa.Pointer@ajc.com)
Gov. Brian Kemp listens as Dr. Kathleen Toomey, Commissioner of Georgia Department of Public Health, gives remarks during a COVID-19 update press conference at the Georgia State Capitol Building in Atlanta on Jan. 21. (Alyssa Pointer / Alyssa.Pointer@ajc.com)

Credit: Alyssa Pointer / Alyssa.Pointer@ajc.com

Credit: Alyssa Pointer / Alyssa.Pointer@ajc.com

Still, for any eligible person who passes up the shots there are plenty of others impatient to get inoculated. So far, with vaccines in short supply, the state has limited eligibility to health care providers, police and firefighters, residents and staff of long-term care facilities and anyone age 65 or older. About 954,786 Georgians have received at least one vaccine shot, state data shows.

Bill Johnson of Taylorsville said he wants to get the COVID-19 vaccine as soon as possible.

“I think it was developed fast, but I think it was a push situation where it had to be developed fast,” said Johnson, who is 60, disabled and has health conditions.

Johnson, who is Republican, said he is surprised more people are not eager to get the vaccine. He sees the vaccine as the only way out of the pandemic.

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Meanwhile, Brandon Tomaskovich, who works as a maintenance assistant at an assisted living center in Holly Springs, already got his first dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, and he’s set to get the second dose later this week.

Tomaskovich, who is 20 and also a student at Kennesaw State University, said he was uncertain about getting the vaccine until he talked to a doctor about it.

“She answered my questions, assured me there was no live virus and wouldn’t cause my body harm,” Tomaskovich said. “It definitely put me at ease.”

ExploreComplete coverage of COVID-19 in Georgia

For Deborah Spiva the shot couldn’t get here soon enough. She’s received one dose and has an appointment for her second shot next week.

Spiva, 72, who works as a Realtor in Blairsville, has had friends die of COVID-19 and people close to her contract the disease. Like most of her neighbors in deeply red Union County, Spiva is a Republican. She said attitudes toward the coronavirus pandemic, the vaccine and wearing masks seem to be generational in her community.

“It seems like the older population, we want the vaccine, but the younger ones could care less,” she said.

ABOUT THE POLL

The poll involved 858 registered Georgia voters and was conducted Jan. 17-28 by the University of Georgia’s School of Public and International Affairs. The margin of error is 4.2 percentage points.

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