Poll: 3 in 10 in Michigan reluctant to take a free COVID-19 vaccine

About 3 in 10 Michiganders would likely pass on a COVID-19 vaccine if it were available today. (Shutterstock image)

If a COVID-19 vaccine were approved and available for free, 3 in 10 Michiganders would probably take a pass, according to a new survey. That’s a concern for health officials who say Michigan can’t beat the potentially deadly virus until the state develops herd immunity against it.


Residents surveyed who said they will “probably” or “definitely” skip the vaccine are, in large part, worried that it is being developed too quickly. 

“As much as I wish the vaccine was the miracle we’re all hoping for, it is being rushed,” said Yvonne Pallone, 40, a behavior analyst in Warren.

In a poll conducted July 25-30 by EPIC-MRA for Bridge Michigan of 600 active and likely voters, a clear majority — 66 percent — said they would likely get the vaccine. Though there were notable partisan differences. 

Only about half of those who rated President Trump’s job performance as “excellent” or “good” said they would get the vaccine. By contrast, 77 percent of respondents who were critical of Trump’s job performance indicated they would get the vaccine.

Likewise, among those who approve of Democrat Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s performance or prefer Democrat presidential candidate Joe Biden, nearly 4 in 5 respondents said they would likely get a vaccine.

Volunteering for a vaccine?

Poll question 1.: If a vaccine is developed that would protect you from the coronavirus and is free to everyone who wants it, would you …?

  • 38% - Definitely get it
  • 28% - Probably get it
  • Probably NOT get it - 12%
  • Definitely NOT get it - 18%
  • Undecided/Refused - 4%

Poll question 2. For those who indicated they would not get a vaccine: Would you not get a coronavirus vaccine primarily because you …

  • Are concerned the vaccine was rushed and not sufficiently tested  49 %
  • Do not trust vaccines in general   21%
  • Do not think a vaccine for the coronavirus is needed   7%
  • Or, because you have other concerns about the vaccine 21% 
  • Undecided/Refused  2%

Source: EPIC-MRA

For those reluctant to take the COVID-19 vaccine, hesitation crossed political boundaries. Alarm that a vaccine would be rushed too quickly to market during the pandemic troubled a majority of backers of both Trump and Biden who expressed concern about the vaccine. 

“It was a rather general response. Just about every demographic group” indicated concern about the speed of vaccine development, said Bernie Porn, president of EPIC-MRA.

The poll had a margin of error of plus or minus 4 percentage points.

Pallone, who has a son, Sebastian, with autism, told Bridge she generally supports vaccines. But she said COVID-19 is simply too new and doctors still don’t know enough about treatments or how the virus affects people  long term. It’s also not clear that any immune response triggered by the vaccine would protect against the actual virus, she said.

Yvonne Pallone isn’t against vaccines for herself or her son, Sebastian. But when it comes to a COVID-19 vaccine — “it’s just too fast,” she said. (Courtesy photo)

Pallone said she also worries that a fast-tracked clinical trial would not build a diverse enough participant pool, including those who have underlying health conditions, to know how a vaccine might affect people differently.

Pamela Rockwell, medical director at Ann Arbor-based Domino's Farms Family Medicine, said she’s not surprised there is some hesitation. 

“There’s a natural inclination to be fearful of new things,” said Rockwell, who is a liaison for the American Academy of Family Physicians to the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices, ACIP, the committee responsible for advising the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on vaccines.

There is a global race to develop one or more vaccines to protect people from a novel coronavirus that has already killed more than 700,000 people worldwide and infected more than 18 million. Anthony Fauci, the U.S.’s top infectious disease expert, recently predicted a vaccine likely would be available to the public by early 2021.  

Any vaccine, including one being developed by Massachusetts-based Moderna and now under a clinical trial among 30,000 adults in the United States, will undergo rigorous testing, Rockwell said.

“At the first inkling that there’s an adverse safety concern, it will be scrubbed,” she said.

She and other public health experts say containing COVID-19 once and for all rests with achieving “herd immunity” among the general public, meaning enough of a community has become immune to a disease that it makes its spread unlikely to those without immunity.

“If we think about where we are with this pandemic right now, we're making progress, but there's still such a risk out there to COVID. Our way to get around this really is a vaccine,” said Bob Swanson, who leads state immunization efforts for the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services.

It’s unclear what percentage of the population needs to be immune to establish “herd immunity” to COVID-19, he said. Generally, the more contagious the disease, the higher the percentage that’s necessary. It has been estimated that 93 percent to 95 percent of a population needs to be vaccinated to establish herd immunity against measles, for instance. But herd immunity against polio is achieved at a lower percentage, when about 80-86 percent of the population achieves immunity.

“We really need to have buy-in from the public for this vaccine and we need people to want the vaccine so that we can get the population of Michigan protected,” he said.

“If we think about where we are with this pandemic right now, we're making progress, but there's still such a risk out there to COVID. Our way to get around this really is a vaccine,” said Bob Swanson, who leads state immunization efforts for the MDHHS (Photo courtesy of Michigan Department of Health and Human Services)

Swanson, like Rockwell, said he trusts the testing and vetting process behind vaccine development.

But that buy-in may not be easy.

“I’m not in favor of taking risks,” said Patrick Card, 30, a stock clerk and father of two in Temperance in southeast Michigan. Though he said he’s comfortable with long-standing vaccines such as those for measles, COVID-19 is simply too new and understanding of the virus still too thin to rush a vaccine to market.

“I’m not going to be a guinea pig. I wanted [the vaccine] tested first,” he said. “I like the idea of it one day. Right now? It’s too early, and I don’t trust it.”

Still, what is perceived as a rush job may be only part of the concern.

In general, a declining number of Americans say they feel vaccines overall are important, according to a Gallup poll of respondents in December, before news hit of a new coronavirus outbreak. In the poll, 84 percent said they believed it is “extremely” or “very” important that parents vaccinate their children. That’s unchanged in recent years, but down from 94 percent in 2001.

Porn, at EPIC-MRA, said adequate distribution of the vaccine in Michigan will require focused public health messaging that could include testimonials from trusted leaders.

“If they can have that kind of messaging. I think they can get beyond the fear about it being rushed too much,” Porn said.

That’s something that Seabron Bowler, a Detroit police officer, said he wants to hear — reassurance from those he trusts, such as D. Fauci or Dr. Deborah Birx, the White House’s coronavirus task force coordinator.

He said he’ll heed the advice of scientists and doctors long before listening to politicians: “These people — they know what they’re talking about,” he said.

Facts matter. Trust matters. Journalism matters.

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Wed, 08/05/2020 - 6:16pm

No problem, those are the ones who can stay home.

Sun, 08/09/2020 - 9:10pm

Incorrect. They will move about freely. This is not a preschool game of "simon says". Lol.

Wed, 08/05/2020 - 6:37pm

Either way...masks are done in less than a year. Economy won’t even begin to improve while we still have masks.

Sun, 08/09/2020 - 9:09pm

Masks are done now - Very few people in my town are wearing them. However, they are wearing their guns more than normal. Interesting.

Wed, 08/05/2020 - 8:01pm

Why the negativity? What about a headline like "66% would probably get a COVID-19 vaccination if it were free." The positive headline describes the higher percentage. Do negative headlines attract more clicks?

Silence Dogood
Thu, 08/06/2020 - 8:42am

How can we achieve herd immunity with all the Governor’s restrictions in place? Other states & countries are less restrictive and doing better than MI.

Sun, 08/09/2020 - 10:31pm

Maybe by going to Sweden, if that's your thing.

Tue, 08/11/2020 - 8:34am

Which other states or countries are those? Georgia, Florida, Texas, and Arizona are all less restrictive and have seen an explosion in cases in the past month. Sweden didn't lock down and they have the highest death rate of any Scandinavian country but remaining open didn't shield them from an economic downturn on par with neighboring Norway. Israel reopened schools too soon and wiped out all of the gains they made to slow the spread.

George Hagenauer
Thu, 08/06/2020 - 9:10am

It doesn't help that to increase testing we have cleared some tests quickly that have significant error rates. I would get the vaccine as I would think it is save in terms of side effects but not significantly change my behavior until I see how effective it is. A key problem here is that the length of the development period does not allow for eat least a year worth of observation as to the effectiveness of the vaccine. As such we would in a sense just be part of a larger test group. On the other hand 6 months to a year of some resistance to the virus and being safer would be worth it. Clearing the vaccines well is important as there is at least one out of China that has low effectiveness but may be in use in a large portion of the world. I expect that for many just getting vaccinated will not mean a return for a while to using airplanes, going to bars etc. . People will be wary at first that the vaccine will work long term.

Thu, 08/06/2020 - 9:30am

I'm a strong believer in vaccines. However I won't be first in line to receive the Covid vaccine.
Back in 1976 there was an outbreak of Swine Flu. A vaccine was rushed to development in 18 months. Everyone was encouraged to have the shot. President Ford was on the front page of the newspaper getting his. Then...........people started coming down with Gullian-Barre syndrome. A serious reaction to the vaccine. They stopped using it after 25% of the Country had been vaccinated.

Matt G
Thu, 08/06/2020 - 9:59am

All that's being "rushed" is the FDA approval. The actual safety trials are identical to normal safety trials.

Phase 1 is usually non-human testing
Phase 2 is small scale human safety testing
Phase 3 is large scale testing to see if it actually works.

By the time a vaccine gets to phase 3, it has already been deemed safe by doctors and scientists. There are multiple vaccine candidates in phase 3 testing. Some people are given the vaccine and some are given a placebo shot. They wait to see if people who got the vaccine get sick, test positive, etc. So, people saying it's rushed are missing the point that they've already done safety testing and tens of thousands of people have already gotten the vaccine. If anyone is harmed by it they will scrap immediately. It hasn't happened.

Also, these companies like Moderna that have promising vaccines are simply producing vaccine (at great risk to themselves) while the safety trials are going on because they believe it will be successful. If they're correct we'll have millions and millions of doses available in record time. If they're wrong and it doesn't work, they'll have lost piles of money.

The quotes in the article are disturbing because people aren't asking questions but rather saying "I don't trust it because it's rushed". Instead you should be asking "what's being done to make sure it's safe?". The former is a selfish statement based on ignorance and fear, and the latter is a question asked by someone who trusts science and wants to learn.

These anti-science attitudes endanger the health and safety of all of us as a group. If a doctor offers you a vaccine, it's been thoroughly tested. If there's a risk to you or your child (unlikely), they will fully explain that risk and you can decide then. Don't decide before the trials are even finished.

Tue, 08/11/2020 - 7:34pm

I wish I had your faith in science but I don’t. There have been recalls in the past. I am not anti-vaccine but am not necessarily the first in line either. However, I do pray that they are successful.

A Yooper
Thu, 08/06/2020 - 10:34am

Sure, as long as the side effect are clearly outlined and medical follow-up is ensured.
And manufactured in the U.S. from a reputable source.

Elsie Anne
Thu, 08/06/2020 - 4:05pm

I would definitely get the vaccine. I know that these vaccines go through extensive testing before they are tried on the general human population. Plus, going without a vaccine carries a huge risk of getting the virus itself, which, in my case, could possibly result in death or permanent damage. The vaccine is not likely to cause either of those results. Whenever the vaccine is ready, I'm ready!

Fri, 08/07/2020 - 12:00pm

I won't. I have never had a flu shot and won't get one as well. Most democrats are so deranged by Trump that if he has any hand in this vaccine, they won't take it. I think it's funny.

Sun, 08/09/2020 - 10:29pm

Dad is 93, gets all his vaccinations every year, fit as a fiddle and strong like bull. So I'll follow his example. You can take your chances.

Sun, 08/09/2020 - 9:08pm

Better title: 3 in 10 reluctant to have untested vaccine injected into their veins due to the massive list of serious (and possibly fatal) side effects that they could experience.
From the looks of it, the statistical chance of having side effects is VERY close to the statistical chance of dying of coronavirus... LOL

Sun, 08/09/2020 - 9:12pm

I will be first in line for any medical provider who will provide me a fake certificate that I was vaccinated, even though I was not. Definitely not getting this vaccine but I could certainly use a fake certification that I was. Done with this hoax.

Mon, 08/10/2020 - 9:23am

The news is filled with public health "scientists" telling us how important it is that we get to 80% heard immunity. If 66% are willing to get a vaccine and so very many people are getting infected that living under our current dictatorship is being largely embraced, what's the problem? These scientists are saying we can get to herd immunity without 100% compliance. Anyone else perplexed by the failure of the logic of these scientists? or notice how important peer review studies are until it looks like their new found importance and control of our Country is threatened?