RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) – A new poll released Thursday shows about 40 percent of people in North Carolina say they want to get a COVID-19 vaccine if the FDA approves, just as the agency prepares to weigh in on whether Pfizer’s vaccine is safe and effective.
Elon University found 39 percent of people said “it depends” or they’re unsure, while about 20 percent said they would not get a vaccine.
“Right now the state is very divided,” said Jason Husser, director of the Elon University Poll. “When the person’s own doctor takes the vaccine and says it worked out for me, then it’s likely that they would be able to influence people going forward.”
State Health and Human Services Secretary Dr. Mandy Cohen said Thursday though the first doses of the Pfizer vaccine could be given to hospital workers next week, vaccines likely will not be available to the general public until the spring of 2021.
“We are just at the beginning of this. And in terms of timeframes, we don’t even know how much vaccine we’re going to be receiving from the federal government in week two,” she said.
The state initially identified 11 hospitals that have the appropriate cold-storage capability to receive the initial 85,800 doses of the vaccine. An additional 42 hospitals would be able to receive shipments in dry ice as long as the FDA approves and the CDC issues guidelines this weekend, Cohen said.
To view the list of hospitals, click below:
“This is a huge effort. We know there are going to be bumps in the road with any sort of major challenge of administering a vaccine program of this scale. We’re doing everything possible to be prepared based on the information we have now from the federal government,” Cohen said.
Dr. Amanda Fuller Moore, a pharmacist with the state’s Division of Public Health, said her agency is putting systems in place to ensure people receive the second dose of a vaccine. As an example, she noted that someone who received the first dose of a vaccine developed by Pfizer would have to get the second dose of that same vaccine and not of one developed by Moderna.
“We have really tried to make sure that not only our data system has the ability to track that second dose but also that our providers are prepared,” she said.
Cohen said there are unanswered questions about the vaccine, including how long immunity lasts and whether you would have to get the vaccine annually, like the flu shot. She said it’s also unclear what the target percentage of the population is that would need to get the vaccine.
“I think it’s too early to be able to say that, but I would say we need as many people as possible to get this vaccine,” she said.
She stressed the vaccine does not contain the virus.
Cohen said the strategy is to initially focus the limited doses available on those most at risk of being exposed to the virus.
On Thursday, the number of people in the hospital due to COVID-19 climbed once again to 2,444.
“I am very worried about our recent trends,” she said. “Our hospitals are feeling the strain, and this is really worrisome.”
She said the state will need additional resources from the federal government in the coming weeks to educate people about the vaccine as health officials try to instill more confidence in people about its safety and efficacy.
Husser said his poll looked at concerns people had about taking a COVID-19 vaccine.
“A lot of people told us that it was the speed of which this vaccine was developed and that the trial data was not from multi-years out,” he said. “This is kind of a symptom of our politically divided times, in which trust in government is low and people are generally suspicious of the political system if it’s not their part of the political system.”
The strongest indicator of whether someone is likely to get the vaccine is if they get their annual flu shot, he said. White Democrats were most enthusiastic about getting the vaccine, he added, while Black residents were most hesitant.
“That’s probably born out of a long American history of African-Americans not being treated as well by the medical community,” he said.
The poll found majority support for employers requiring employees to get vaccinated as well as requiring vaccinations at colleges and K-12 schools. But, Husser noted a significant portion of the population opposes those requirements.
“Those 40 percent, while they may be in a minority, they will be very vocal. So, I think we’re going to hear a lot I think going forward about groups of people who are opposed to requiring vaccines,” he said.
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