State survey finds which demographics fear vaccine most

By , Daily Memphian Updated: April 15, 2021 7:25 AM CT | Published: April 14, 2021 4:29 PM CT

A state survey of Tennesseans shows more than half of respondents (53.7%) are willing to get the vaccine but have reservations.

The main worries are safety and concerns about short- and long-term effects of the vaccines.

Physicians and medical staff were considered the most trusted voice for seeking information for vaccines. 

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The survey was conducted by a third-party, Designsensory Intelligence, on behalf of the Tennessee Department of Health. 

A poll done by a third party for The Daily Memphian in mid-March found 62.8% of Shelby County residents would or likely would get the vaccine.

The people with the most reservations in the state survey are rural white people who identify as conservatives.

Black people were generally willing, but need more reassurance. Latino people more frequently said they were waiting to get an appointment or needed assistance.

“The results are consistent with national trends and show that Tennesseans want more information from trusted sources as they make their decision,” Tennessee Health Department Commissioner Dr. Lisa Piercey said.

“This market survey was an important step in identifying where we can be helpful in providing information about safety and effectiveness.”

The statewide quantitative and qualitative survey of more than 1,000 adult Tennesseans explored their feelings about the vaccine. It was completed in early April and elicited perspectives associated with choosing to receive the vaccine, like hesitancy or unwillingness, in an effort to identify where Tennesseans may need more information.

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The responses to each question are broken out by demographics of the respondents: Hispanic, Black, urban, suburban Black, white and rural, conservative white.

Rural, conservative white people were more inclined to question the necessity of the vaccine and its safety; others are not sure it is safe.

All the Hispanic respondents were more afraid of dying from the vaccine than the disease.

That sentiment was echoed, but less emphatically, by rural, conservative white people.

People who said they would most trust their physician for advice also said they had not reached out to speak to their doctors.

Overall, the fact that family and friends had been vaccinated seemed to have little influence on the decision to get vaccinated. People also said the advice of clergy would mean little in their choice.

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In the qualitative analysis, researchers found an overall discomfort with vaccines. About 45% of the respondents do not get an annual flu shot.

For people who had reservations about past vaccines, most of them said their opinions were changed by doctors or when they could see the vaccine was safe and worked.

The state Health Department will use the results to tailor additional COVID-19 vaccine messaging campaigns.


Tennessee Department of Health
Jane Roberts

Jane Roberts

Longtime journalist Jane Roberts is a Minnesotan by birth and a Memphian by choice. She's lived and reported in the city more than two decades. She covers business news and features for The Daily Memphian.