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Vaccine hesitancy widespread in the region, poll finds

Medical experts say high COVID-19 vaccination rates are critical to life in the Sacramento region and elsewhere returning to normal, but a new survey from Sac State and Valley Vision finds nearly 40 percent of area residents are skeptical of vaccines.

Many people in the Sacramento region remain skeptical about getting a COVID-19 vaccine, a new poll by Valley Vision and Sacramento State has found.

In the poll, conducted in March and the third in a series about the impact of COVID-19 in the region, 39% of respondents said they would “probably not” or “definitely not” get a vaccination against the virus when it became available to them. Black respondents displayed the highest level of hesitancy, with 65% reporting that they were unlikely to get vaccinated. On the political spectrum, far more Republicans reported vaccine reluctance than Democrats or independents.

Concerns about side effects and the fact that the vaccines are relatively new were the most commonly cited reasons for avoiding them.

High vaccination rates are critical to returning to normalcy, according to medical experts. Overcoming skepticism will require education campaigns that “instill confidence and address mistrust” among doubters, poll researchers said.

“Public health is a complex field and is largely dependent on the dissemination of consistent and accurate information to make any intervention of this scale successful,” said Shannon Williams, director of Sac State’s Institute for Social Research, which partnered with the nonprofit leadership group Valley Vision to conduct the survey.

“There is a lot of misinformation about COVID and vaccinations being spread through social media outlets,” Williams said. “The misinformation is layered on the historical injustices experienced by Black communities and the divisive political landscape in which the pandemic occurred.”

Valley Vision and the Sac State institute, in partnership with Capital Public Radio, released results of the latest “COVID-19 Resilience Poll” May 10. The surveys were conducted on three separate occasions during the past year.

The latest report highlights key themes from all three polls, in which residents of Sacramento and surrounding counties responded to questions about the pandemic’s effects on their lives. Topics included the impacts of isolation, working from home, remote education, child care, health care access, and more.

“There is a lot of misinformation about COVID and vaccinations being spread through social media outlets. The misinformation is layered on the historical injustices experienced by Black communities and the divisive political landscape in which the pandemic occurred.” - Shannon Williams, director of Sac State's Institute for Social Research

“The impact of the 2020 pandemic will be felt for years to come and likely signify historic shifts in our social, political, and economic landscape,” Valley Vision Chief Executive Officer Evan Schmidt wrote in the report.

Sac State President Robert S. Nelsen, offering a “guest viewpoint” in the report, addressed the pandemic’s effects on the University and higher education.

While the abrupt pivot away from face-to-face learning, teaching, and working was “devastating,” he said, Sac State is looking toward a brighter future.

“The past year has changed us,” he said. “We have endured loss and fear, anger, and pain. But we also have learned about our own individual and collective abilities to adapt and evolve. We found a way to come together, even as we were forced to be apart.”

This fall, most Sac State classes will occur in person, Nelsen said. “Our offices will be open. We will have performances. We will have sports, even football. We will also apply the lessons we learned over the year,” carefully following public health guidelines.

Schmidt noted that the region overall was able to adjust to the pandemic in significant ways, including delivering services over video platforms, allowing restaurateurs to provide outdoor dining on streets and in converted parking lots, and expanding housing for homeless people.

“We learned that bending our systems doesn’t break them, and that things we had previously thought would be impossible to achieve turned out to be possible,” she said.

The authors hope their survey findings will help guide leaders through the challenges ahead and set priorities for the future.

Among the key findings from all three polls:

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About Cynthia Hubert

Cynthia Hubert came to Sacramento State in November 2018 after an award-winning career writing for the Sacramento Bee. Cynthia believes everyone has a good story. She lives in East Sacramento with her two cats, who enjoy bird-watching from their perch next to the living-room window.

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