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Half of Hawaii residents are wary of taking a vaccine, according to a community survey

Even if a much-awaited vaccine for COVID-19 became available, nearly half of Hawaii residents surveyed last month by the University of Hawaii Public Policy Center said they were not yet committed to getting it.

The community impact survey — administered by Ward Research from Aug. 21 to 31 when daily new coronavirus cases were consistently in the triple digits — included 634 residents statewide.

Besides the lack of commitment toward the vaccine, the survey found residents were critical of the state’s response to COVID-19, which they take seriously, and that many still do not want tourists to visit right now. Survey responses also showed inconsistencies in mask wearing and growing concerns over personal finances.

When asked whether they will get the COVID-19 vaccination when it is available, only 51% said yes, while 32% said they were unsure.

Another 15% said they did not plan to get the vaccine, while the remaining 2% of respondents said they did not know or preferred not to answer.

Colin Moore, director of UH Public Policy Center, said the high percentage of folks unsure about getting the vaccine surprised him.

“It shows there is a lot of uncertainty around the safety of the vaccine,” said Moore. “I would imagine the folks that said no had questions about vaccines generally … but a large percentage are saying, ‘I’d like to know more before committing to taking it.’”

Some of this may be due to the politics surrounding the vaccine, he said, as well as anxiety and a lack of trust over its safety procedures.

Lt. Gov. Josh Green said the statistics were “pretty standard” for a vaccination of this kind.

“If it is demonstrated to be safe and effective, I assume many people will want to be vaccinated,” he wrote. “It is a personal choice for people.”

Men surveyed were more likely to say that they would definitely get the vaccine (61%) when compared with women (40%).

Some differences were noted by ethnicity, as well. Japanese respondents (71%) were the most likely to say they will get the vaccine, while far fewer Caucasians (45%), Filipinos (40%) and Hawaiians (38%) said they planned to do so.

The differences were pronounced in income levels, as well, with only 32% of Hawaii’s poorest households planning to receive the vaccine compared with 72% of households with incomes over $150,000.

The survey found that respondents do not feel the state government is doing a good job overall in its response to the pandemic — with nearly 60% rating the government between 1 and 4 on a scale of 1 to 10.

Among respondents, 15% gave the state the lowest mark on its response to the new coronavirus. Another 15% rated the state terrible (1) in keeping residents safe, and 18% gave the state the lowest mark, as well, on being open and transparent with the public.

Approximately 30% gave the state’s coronavirus response a medium score of 4 or 5. Another 30% rated the state a 4 or 5 on informing residents about issues facing the community. Only 1% gave the state an excellent rating for responding to the coronavirus and “keeping us safe.”

The survey found good overall compliance with the wearing of face masks to prevent the spread of the coronavirus — except when visiting family and friends, when guards seem to come down.

A whopping 99% said they wore them all or most of the time while visiting a store or business, while 84% said they wore them all or most of the time while outside in a public space.

However, only 29% wore them all or most of the time while visiting family, and 39% all or most of the time while visiting friends.

When visiting family, younger residents ages 18 to 29, and those 65 and over, were more likely not to wear masks.

Moore said these discrepancies were significant.

“People comply in public but in private with friends and family are less likely to be wearing masks,” he said. “It’s an essential thing to know because in theory you’re supposed to be wearing masks in those situations as well.”

A majority of residents, 48%, strongly agreed they do not want tourists visiting their community right now, nearly identical to results from a June survey.

As far as perception of the severity of COVID-19 goes, those responding appeared to take it seriously.

A majority, 85%, said they feel the long-term health impacts will be serious or very serious, compared with 7% who said they were not so serious.

Most respondents agreed it was important to avoid large gatherings of five people or more, but nearly half said they were unsatisfied with their community’s compliance with the restrictions.

More than half expressed a high level of concern over personal finances. More than a third rated the handling of young child care responsibilities as very difficult.

The data in the survey was weighted by age, gender and ethnicity to reflect the statewide adult demographic, with a margin of error of plus or minus 3.8 percentage points.

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