Hawaii residents are becoming more accepting of the COVID-19 vaccine, with a recent survey indicating a shift in attitudes since mid-December.
A Department of Health poll showed 91% of respondents plan to get vaccinated — 55% as soon as their turn comes up and 36% at a later time.
“I was a little nervous or hesitant at first about being a guinea pig for a new vaccine, but when weighing the alternative of not getting protected against COVID-19, as a health care worker, I owed it to my family, my patients and myself,” Julie Friel, a registered nurse at The Queen’s Medical Center, told the Honolulu Star-Advertiser. “I’m very glad I got it and there were nominal, if any, side effects. It was definitely worth it.”
Only about 50% of residents said they would choose to get immunized, with the other half not planning to or undecided in previous surveys by the Health Department and University of Hawaii before the arrival of vaccines in the islands.
“This is a positive change in a relatively short time,” Health Director Libby Char said in a news release. “As we anticipated, those who were initially hesitant about getting the vaccine are now much more comfortable as they see family, friends, co-workers and others safely receiving their first and second doses.”
By contrast, a third of American adults said they “definitely or probably won’t get the COVID-19 vaccine,” according to a separate poll from The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research. While 67% of Americans plan to get vaccinated or have already received shots, 15% are “certain they won’t and 17% say probably not,” with many citing safety and efficacy concerns. Negative sentiments were higher among younger people and those without college degrees, as well as African Americans and Republicans, The Associated Press reported.
Resistance comes as super-spreading coronavirus variants are rapidly increasing infections across the U.S. Health officials have detected two mutations in Hawaii, one first found in Denmark and another, more contagious strain originally discovered in the United Kingdom.
More transmissible strains mean that it might take 80% to 90% of the population to be vaccinated in order to achieve so-called herd immunity instead of the state’s goal of 60% to 70%, acting state Epidemiologist Sarah Kemble earlier told reporters.
As of Sunday, 218,997 doses had been administered of the 267,800 received by the state. The total administered doses were up 39% from a week earlier, while the number of doses received rose 18%. Of the administered doses, 201,553 were given to the general public and 17,444 were distributed through the federal pharmacy program.
As of Sunday, nearly 11% of the general population of Hawaii and 47% of residents age 75 and older had received at least one dose, health officials said.
More than a third of Hawaii residents are “primarily focused on the pandemic’s economic and financial impact” and less concerned about the impact on their health, with 14% of them not planning to get shots. Of those more concerned about coronavirus health implications, only 5% do not intend to be vaccinated.
Young adults under age 35 are least likely to line up for doses as soon as they are eligible, with 35% wanting to be immunized. However, those intending to get vaccinated rises with age, with 51% of residents between the ages of 35 and 49, 61% between 50 and 64, and 78% of those 65 and older accepting of the vaccine.
Education also plays a role in vaccine acceptance, with 64% of college-educated residents choosing to get shots once available and 45% of people without a college degree wanting immunizations.
In addition, people who were more concerned about the financial impact of the pandemic were more likely to have “overall mental stress and depression” over the past six months. Roughly 82% of respondents noted a mental health condition — including anxiety, depression, loneliness or panic attacks — in that period.
The local survey also showed that the Health Department’s current campaign, including public service announcements on social media and TV, is reaching 89% of Hawaii residents. At least 65% of respondents are following COVID-19 precautions, the highest percentage since April.
The DOH poll of 445 adult, full-time residents was conducted by Anthology Research from Dec. 30 to Jan. 11.
Health officials reported five new coronavirus deaths and 56 infections, bringing the state’s totals since the start of the pandemic to 423 fatalities and 26,584 cases. Three of the deaths were among men in their 60s, 70s and 80s on Maui and two were on Oahu — a woman in her 50s and a man in his 80s. All had underlying medical conditions. Of the state’s total infection count, 1,085 cases are considered to be active.
The U.S. coronavirus death toll was nearly 470,000 on Wednesday, with total infections since the start of the pandemic surpassing 27 million — both the highest of any nation in the world.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.