Half of Marylanders say they wouldn't get COVID-19 vaccine, poll finds
Less than half of Maryland residents would agree to get a COVID-19 vaccine when one becomes available, new Goucher College Poll results show.
The statewide poll is just the latest sign of faltering public trust in a potential COVID-19 vaccine. It mirrors recent national polling that has found just 50 percent of Americans say they intend to get the vaccine when it becomes available.
"It reflects what we're seeing across the country, that the number of people who say they would definitely get a vaccine has been dropping over the past many months," said Dr. Cyrus Shahpar, director of the Prevent Epidemics Team at the nonprofit health initiative Resolve to Save Lives.
The pace of COVID-19 vaccine trials, along with the politicization of the pandemic during a contentious election year, have contributed to the public's uncertainty.
"People think perhaps the vaccine, the earliest ones, might not be safe and efficacious," Shahpar said. "Essentially, that they're being rushed through a process, maybe for political reasons."
The Goucher poll found that 48 percent of Marylanders said they would agree to be vaccinated if a free, FDA-approved vaccine were available today, and 49 percent said they would not.
Black Marylanders were more likely to distrust a potential vaccine, according to the poll, with 61 percent responding that they would not be vaccinated. A majority of white Maryland residents, 54 percent, said they would agree to receive the vaccine.
Those results also reflect national trends, Shahpar said. Health officials should be planning strategies to overcome trust problems once a safe vaccine is available, he said.
"We need to understand the populations of Maryland," he said. "What are their specific issues with the vaccine?"
In an August report, the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security noted that longstanding problems with access to health care and structural racism have contributed to a lack of trust in medical officials among communities of color.
"Communities of color, particularly Black populations, may be more wary of officials responsible for vaccine-related decisions due to past medical injustices committed by authorities on Black communities," said the report, which outlined a framework for vaccine distribution.
A majority of Democrats said they would get the vaccine when it becomes available, while only 44 percent of Republicans said they would get the vaccine, according to the Goucher poll results.
The poll breaks down results by region, and groups the results from Western Maryland, the Eastern Shore and Southern Maryland together.
The results show that 55 percent of people polled in those parts of the state said they would not get the vaccine, while 43 percent said they would.
Polling results like these show that "vaccines are not a magic bullet," Shahpar said. Other disease prevention measures will have to continue even once a vaccine is available.
"They're not going to mean that once a vaccine is released, everyone's going to be able to go out and not wear masks," he said.
Maryland health officials told lawmakers in September that they had begun planning how to distribute a COVID-19 vaccine, even though it could be months until one is approved.
The eventual vaccine could present a host of logistical problems — some vaccine candidates would require two doses, administered weeks apart, or the vaccines may need to be stored at extremely cold temperatures.
Officials also said they expect to receive limited quantities of the vaccine at first, and will likely prioritize medically vulnerable people and health care workers.
Hogan receives high marks
Gov. Larry Hogan said late last month that nursing home residents and staff would be among the first to receive a vaccine.
The Goucher poll also assessed what Maryland residents think of the state's response to the coronavirus pandemic.
Eighty-two percent said they approve of how Hogan has handled the COVID-19 outbreak, and a majority, 58 percent, said they believe the pace of reopening Maryland has been about right.
Democrats were more likely to say they approve of the job that Hogan, a Republican, has done handling the virus. Eighty-six percent of Democrats said they approve, while 75 percent of Republicans said they approve.
About a quarter of those polled said they believe the state is reopening too quickly. Another 16 percent said Maryland is moving too slowly as it reopens.
The pandemic has also taken an emotional and financial toll, according to the Goucher poll.
Fifty-eight percent of Marylanders said they've felt frustrated more often and 57 percent said they've felt more stressed during the pandemic.
Smaller numbers of Maryland residents also reported feeling angry more often (33 percent), sad more often (33 percent) and lonely more often (26 percent).
The poll also asked Marylanders whether the pandemic has caused financial hardship in their household. Thirty-two percent said they experienced moderate financial hardship and 13 percent said the hardship was severe.
Fifty-five percent responded that the pandemic has not caused a financial hardship.
The poll also found that Marylanders are divided on whether we've already seen the worst of the pandemic. A slight majority responded that the "worst is behind us," while 40 percent believe the "worst is yet to come."
The Goucher poll was conducted from Sept. 30 to Oct. 4 and surveyed just over 1,000 Maryland adults. The sample has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.1 percent.
Madeleine O'Neill covers the Maryland State House for the USA Today Network. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter at @maddioneill.