Blacks, Republicans Most Distrustful of Vaccine

Question: Which comes closest to your view regarding the COVID-19 vaccinations recently approved by the FDA?

by James A. Bacon

One out of five Virginians (19%) say they will never get vaccinated against COVID-19, according to a poll of 1,039 people conducted by the Wason Center at Christopher Newport University. The demographic groups most resistant to the vaccine are Republicans, 24% of whom responded that they would “never” get the vaccine, and African Americans, 26% of whom said the same.

In contrast to the Wason Center poll I criticized yesterday, this one seems to be well constructed and yields significant insight into Virginians’ attitudes toward the COVID epidemic.

Among other findings:

State response to COVID-19. Virginians are narrowly divided over the state’s response to the pandemic, with 52% saying they “approve” and 49% saying they “disapprove.” Democrats are far more likely (78%) to approve than Republicans are (26%). Blacks are more likely (66%) to approve than whites (47%). Differences between the sexes and age groups were trivial.

Reopening schools. A strong plurality of Virginians (45%) think the state is reopening K-12 public schools too quickly, compared to 25% who think the pace is too slow and 30% who believe the pace is about right. Blacks, women and Democrats were more likely to say that reopenings are proceeding too quickly.

Public activities. If the state lockdown ended tomorrow, significant percentages of the population would continue to voluntarily limit their behavior. Majorities said they would be unwilling to attend a large sporting event (63%), a wedding (59%) or an indoor gathering (56%). Nearly half would avoid gym, movie theaters, churches and airplanes.

The poll did not query respondents directly about why they disapproved of the state’s handling of the epidemic, but it is likely that partisan considerations figured into the differences in opinion. Three quarters of Democrats approved, three quarters of Republicans disapproved, and independents were split down the middle.

Among the more interesting findings was the fact that blacks were somewhat more likely (54%) than whites (46%) to be “very concerned” that they or someone in their family might contract the virus, yet 26%, more than any demographic group, said they would “never” get the vaccine.

Historical mistreatment. In a press release, Wason Center research director Rebecca Bromley-Trujillo thought the racial discrepancy worth explaining. “This is consistent with concerns within the Black community that stem from historical mistreatment in medical research and health care,” she said. “To reach herd immunity through vaccination will require concerted efforts to win the trust of the Black community.”

If African Americans are more reluctant to get the vaccine, the African-American sub-population will be slower to reach herd immunity and more likely to continue getting the virus. Bromley-Trujillo is correct to state that “concerted efforts” should be made to win back the trust of black Americans.

One place to start might be for media and public health authorities to stop validating the fears of black people by dwelling upon injustices, such as the Tuskegee syphilis trials, that ended 60 years ago. Woke white people might get their jollies from continually referring to past racism, but such virtue signaling is antithetical to the public health of black people today. It would be refreshing if academic and media figures tried reassuring African Americans that doctors, and nurses don’t play play favorites once someone enters the hospital.