Nearly one-third of the public still unsure about getting COVID-19 vaccine

MILWAUKEE (CBS 58) -- Recent data show nearly a third of the public is still unsure about getting the COVID-19 vaccine as the rollout further progresses. Doctors say that “wait and see” method could not only have major consequences for the person, but affect society’s ability to return to normal.

Doctors say 70 to 80-percent of people need to be vaccinated to return to normal, but if nearly one-third of people are still in the "wait and see" group, it will not get us where we need to be. Some doctors say it’s their single biggest concern.

“Our ability to open up the economy, our ability to really reduce the health care resources, to get back to work, to have back the lives we have aren’t going to be dependent on those that get vaccinated. We’re actually completely dependent upon those that don’t get vaccinated,” said Dr. Amin Kassam, a Milwaukee-based physician and neurosurgeon.  

Recent data from the Kaiser Family Foundation COVID-19 vaccine dashboard show 13-percent of people say they’re definitely not getting the vaccine, another 7-percent say they will only if it’s required of them, and 31-percent or nearly a third of the public fall into the “wait and see” category. That number was at 39-percent in December.

“This group is actually looking for information, they want to understand how this vaccine works, they want to know people who’ve gotten it so they can feel safe in getting it,” said Dr. Jeff Pothof, chief quality officer at UW Health.

“I think education at large has been probably the single biggest challenge throughout this process,” said Dr. Kassam.  

Doctors say it’s crucial to educate this group, which is made up of a diverse demographic. They say the 31-percent could leave a large number of people unprotected, creating a host group for the virus and new variants to continue spreading.

“It allows for the variants, the mutations, to have a feeding ground,” adds Dr. Kassam.

“I’d hate to see someone that decided to wait and see on the vaccine come down with COVID-19 and then, you know, wind up at a hospital or worse, end up passing away from the disease,” Dr. Pothof says.

Data show people in the "wait and see" category are concerned about the safety and long-term effects of the vaccine, and 60-percent of them do not know anyone who’s gotten the vaccine yet. Doctors say people in this category should talk to their health care provider about their concerns.  

“What is it that you need to know or need to be reassured about? So that we can answer those questions and say hey, here’s the study that says this is how the vaccine works or this is the risk that you have,” said Dr. Pothof.

“Clearing up these myths, particularly in high-risk populations, is our way out of this situation,” Dr. Kassam says.

Even with nearly a third of people in the "wait and see"  category, Dr. Pothof says he believes that group will see more quick adoption of the vaccine as the rollout continues into the spring and summer, because by then a majority of people will hopefully be vaccinated.

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