Power Poll: Ga. leaders say state could do better on vaccinations

Georgia leaders generally believe the state could be doing a better job of vaccinating residents against the coronavirus, a new poll shows.

Only about 12% of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution Power Poll respondents said the state’s vaccine rollout has been “great” or “better than could be expected.”

The state Power Poll is part of a nationwide survey seeking community leaders’ opinions on important issues. It does not have the precision of a scientific poll but is meant to provide insight into the thinking of metro Atlanta and Georgia leaders.

The Power Poll includes hundreds of powerful influencers from metro Atlanta and Athens, Augusta, Columbus, Macon and Savannah.

The poll was taken March 15 to 18, just as Georgia was making headlines for being rated dead-last by the CDC on a measure of vaccination progress among the states, a claim Gov. Brian Kemp has challenged.

One hundred ninety leaders participated in the poll, including 22% who classified the state vaccine roll-out as “pretty good,” 24% who described it as OK “but with considerable room for improvement,” and 12% who labeled it as “so-so.”

Another 30% said the rollout was “not good for a state as important as ours.”

Cynthia Briscoe Brown, a member of the Atlanta Board of Education, said the vaccine rollout’s failure in Georgia is starkly illustrated by the number of people driving hundreds of miles from their homes – including to Alabama -- in search of the vaccine.

“The lack of any coherent, user-friendly system for locating a vaccine only compounds the problem,” she said in comments to Power Poll.

Others, including Dean Trevelino, principal of the public relations, social media, and brand communications firm Trevelino/Keller, defended Kemp and others working on the rollout, saying they deserve the public’s patience and support.

“We are seeing tremendous progress across the state and the country,” he wrote. “It’s not perfect, but these are uncharted times.”

021821 Atlanta: Dr. Kathleen Toomey speaks with Governor Brian P. Kemp looking on during an announcement launching mass vaccination sites amid supply shortage on Thursday, Feb. 18, 2021, in Atlanta.   Curtis Compton / Curtis.Compton@ajc.com”
021821 Atlanta: Dr. Kathleen Toomey speaks with Governor Brian P. Kemp looking on during an announcement launching mass vaccination sites amid supply shortage on Thursday, Feb. 18, 2021, in Atlanta. Curtis Compton / Curtis.Compton@ajc.com”

Credit: Curtis Compton / Curtis.Compton@

Credit: Curtis Compton / Curtis.Compton@

The survey was emailed to 1,165 leaders across the state, 190 or 16.3% of whom responded to questions dealing with the vaccine rollout.

About 80% said they are moderately concerned to very worried about people being hesitant to take the vaccine.

A majority (68%) said they believe the way to reduce public doubts about the need for the vaccine and its safety is to step up awareness through advertising and social media.

About 20% said they believe there’s little that can be done to change some minds.

“Vaccine resistance is often philosophical and unlikely to change,” said Kay Kirkpatrick, a state senator from East Cobb County.

COMMENTS:

Chris Clark, president and CEO, Georgia Chamber: The effort that Gov Kemp has executed is unlike anything in modern history and is a testament to the partnership between healthcare entities, educators, elected and appointed officials at the state and local level. We need to encourage and support our employees to get vaccinated while continuing to social distance!

Alicia M. Johnson , executive director, Step Up Savannah, Inc.: There should be a coordinated and strategic effort to assist traditionally marginalized and disenfranchised communities. There is not only a data divide, there is also a scarcity of information and access in our rural and urban communities. Many do not have smartphones, computers, cable, transportation, or access to social media. To continue to ignore that is socially and morally irresponsible.

Randy Lewis, owner of Fitzpatrick & Lewis Public Relations: The primary hesitancy issue is related to how the rollout was executed. The primary message to the majority of the population is, you don’t qualify. The rollout was only for certain occupations or age groups. Everyone else was made to feel unworthy. That can be fixed, but we need to get to a point where it is available to more than limited persons at very limited venues.

Stephen Greenberg, Savannah attorney: Our political and governmental leadership needs to continue to stress the benefits of the vaccine and the need for everyone to help stem the tide of the pandemic. Beyond that, our leadership needs to take a good look at the available public health resources in this state and provide funding or other assistance to help county health departments really carry out their duties. Too many departments struggled early in the pandemic for lack of staffing and resources.

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POLL RESULTS

How good a job do you think Georgia is doing in rolling out COVID-19 vaccinations?

Great, as well or better than could be expected, 11.6%

Pretty good, 22.1%

OK, though we’ve got considerable room to improve, 24.2%

So-so, 12.1%

Not good for a state as important as ours, 30.0%

How worried are you about vaccine hesitancy?

Very worried, 21.8%

Moderately concerned, 59.6%

It’s not a very big deal, 8.5%

Not worried at all, 10.1%

What do you think can be done to lower public doubts about COVID vaccine safety?

Step up awareness efforts, such as advertising and/or use of social media, 67.4%

Better leverage existing resources, such as the CDC, 12.6%

Nothing will do much to change made-up minds on this issue, 20.0%

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