Only 52-percent of Americans are willing to get the COVID-19 vaccine, study says

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MILWAUKEE (CBS 58) -- A recent study shows only 52-percent of Americans say they’re willing to get the COVID-19 vaccine, according to the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME) at the University of Washington School of Medicine. The percentage could pose problems to ending the pandemic.

The city immunized more than 3,000 people this week at the Wisconsin Center in Milwaukee, and while the focus continues to be on vaccine supply and delivery, IHME health experts say it’s important to keep a continuous eye on people’s willingness to get vaccinated.

“To reach those levels that we need in our community to get herd immunity is perhaps upwards of 80-percent of our population,” said Dr. Ben Weston, medical director, Milwaukee County Office of Emergency Management.

The study by IHME shows 52-percent of Americans are willing to get the COVID-19 vaccine, 25-percent are not sure and 23-percent are not willing to get it at all. IHME says it’s important educational campaigns target the 48-percent who are unsure or won’t get vaccinated.

“We need to not only have the supply of vaccine on hand, but certainly the infrastructure to deliver it and the willingness of the broader population to receive it,” said Dr. Weston.

Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett says it’s human nature, and not surprising, for people to have doubts about getting the vaccine. He knows many are waiting to see what happens.

“You’ve got something that was developed this quickly, and it is amazing how quickly it is developed, that people are going to question—is it safe? Is it effective?” said Mayor Barrett.

IHME data show Wisconsin’s vaccine hesitancy measures near the U.S. average, with about 50-percent willing, 25-percent unsure and the rest not willing.

Mayor Barrett says having medical experts like Dr. Anthony Fauci publicly get the vaccine speaks volumes to the community.

“It’s our experience here at the city, the more people who get it, the more word of mouth conversations occur that say look this is safe, you should get it,” added Mayor Barrett.

“Each of you who’ve learned about the vaccine or received the vaccine can be an ambassador to your family, your friends, your neighbors and your colleagues to share your experiences,” said Dr. Weston.

Milwaukee County Executive David Crowley says he does not want to let up on educating the public on the safety and efficacy of the vaccine. IHME says vaccine hesitancy data has shown to vary by sex and race.

“It is best for us to get this vaccine and we know that there are going to be side effects, but it could be much worse for any individual who catches COVID-19,” said County Executive Crowley.

While building trust in the vaccine is important, Mayor Barrett says his primary focus right now is on accommodating people who are eligible and eager to get the vaccines.

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