After an early drop-off, the number of Granite Staters who say they won’t take the Coronavirus vaccine has remained steady for nearly six months, a sign the state has yet to find a strategy to overcome vaccine hesitancy.
While New Hampshire has one of the highest rates of vaccination — about 62 percent of people have received at least one shot, the fourth-highest in the nation — the rate of new vaccines has fallen sharply in recent weeks. And a new Granite State Poll from the University of New Hampshire finds many of those who haven’t gotten the vaccine yet aren’t likely to get it at all.
“I’m not an anti-vaxxer,” one Granite State Republican activist told NHJoural. “I’ve gotten many vaccines. I even got the shingles vaccine not long ago. But this vaccine is experimental. Instead of taking years, they did it in months. So I’m a little cautious.”
This unvaccinated person only agreed to talk to NHJournal with the agreement they would not be identified. They did acknowledge that they supported President Trump, which makes them typical of people declining to be vaccinated.
“Those who voted for Donald Trump in 2020 (37 percent) remain far more likely than those who voted for Joe Biden (7 percent) to say they will probably not or almost certainly not get vaccinated,” the UNH Survey reports. And the overall reluctance rate in the UNH poll has stabilized in the low 20 percent range.
Those GOP numbers are actually a little better than in recent national polls. “Republicans were less likely to say they’ve already been vaccinated, at 45 percent, and more likely to say they do not plan to get vaccinated, at 41 percent,” according to a Marist poll released earlier this week. “Just 4 percent of Democrats and 27 percent of independent voters said they do not plan to get vaccinated.”
One of those New Hampshire Trump supporters, Dave, (he asked NHJournal to withhold his last name), was blunt about his reasons. “They’re lying to us,” he said. “The media’s lying, the government’s lying. They aren’t telling us about the people who’ve died from the vaccine.”
Like many people who are refusing the shots, he also mentioned Bill Gates. “You’ve got a guy who’s invested billions into big pharmaceutical companies running around telling us to take the shot? I’ve got more common sense than to listen to that”
While there’s been a great deal of attention on Republican hesitancy, surveys show reluctance among African Americans is also higher than average. A study of U.S. military personnel, for example, found 29 percent of White service members initiated the vaccine process during a recent period while 25.5 percent of Hispanic and 18.7 percent of Black service members chose to do so.
And a recent Tufts University poll found vaccine hesitancy among Black Americans about equal with Whites.
New Hampshire also has a problem with young people getting vaccinated, the UNH Survey found. “Residents aged 18 to 34 are more likely than in April (+9 percentage points) to say they will probably not or almost certainly not get vaccinated.”
Despite polls at the state and national level showing Republicans are far more likely to say they won’t get vaccinated than Democrats, Gov. Chris Sununu dismissed the idea that vaccine hesitancy is a partisan problem.
“The vaccine is not political at all,” Sununu said at a press conference in March.”You can make the same argument that young people are likely to take the vaccine at a disproportionately lower rate. You can split up those demographics in a variety of different ways.”
Sununu has also rejected calls to join states like Ohio and West Virginia and offer incentives for getting vaccinated.
“Getting a shot is a healthcare decision,” Sununu said Tuesday. “That’s a very personal, long-term decision,” Sununu said. “And if folks, for whatever reason, don’t feel comfortable or safe, you don’t want to be offering — I don’t want to use the word ‘bribe’ — but that cash, if you will, to do something that they inherently at their core might not feel comfortable with. And we just have to respect that.”
In Ohio, where GOP Gov. Mike DeWine is using a “Vax-A-Million” lottery promotion to promote vaccinations, state officials said Thursday the effort is paying off.
“Since its announcement May 13, the Vax-a-Million campaign has helped drive an increase in vaccination rates among Ohioans 16 and older by more than 28 percent,” the Ohio Department of Health said in a statement. They report that vaccines for those 16 and older dropped 25 percent the weekend of May 7-10, but then surged by 28 percent last weekend following the announcement of the million-dollar giveaways.
Meanwhile, about one in five Granite Staters still say no. Another New Hampshire Trump supporter, Pete, told NHJournal he’s skipping the shot for now, though his wife got the Moderna vaccine. “It’s never really scared me,” he said. “But I do worry about how hard they’re selling it. The government and media sound like furniture salesmen. They’re so desperate. That throws up red flags.”
“And like I said, my wife is vaccinated. We look at it as a personal choice.”