Some Floridians still skeptical about COVID vaccines because of side effects and other concerns

By: and - June 16, 2021 3:26 pm

Just prior to his presidential inauguration, Joe Biden received the second dose of the Pfizer/BioNTech COVID-19 vaccination on Jan. 11, 2021, in Newark, Del. Now the vaccine has full FDA approval. Credit: Alex Wong/Getty Images

While the Biden administration is pushing to vaccinate Americans, Floridians who aren’t fully vaccinated are concerned about potential side effects, misinformation about vaccines and other issues, according to a study by the University of South Florida.

Researchers at USF’s School of Public Affairs on Wednesday released results from a statewide survey of 600 Floridians, finding that respondents also feared that the vaccines were created to quickly.

Of the group surveyed, 386 people, (64.3%), reported receiving at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, and most of those respondents were fully vaccinated. (Pfizer and Moderna vaccines involve two shots to be fully vaccinated, while Johnson & Johnson uses a single shot.)

Meanwhile, 214 people, (35.7%), have not gotten at least one shot.

The survey showed that of those who got at least one shot, 157 had a minor reaction, 11 had a severe action and 218 did not have a reaction.

The group of 214 that had not gotten one shot was asked about how likely they would be vaccinated in the coming months.

The answer: 29.9 percent said, “I will definitely NOT get vaccinated.” Another 15.4 percent said, “I will probably NOT get vaccinated.” That’s almost half the group.

Another 24.3 percent said they weren’t sure if they will get vaccinated.

Only 12.6 percent said they will definitely get vaccinated, and 17.8 probably will, according to the survey data.

For those who definitely or probably won’t get vaccinated, respondents were asked about the reasons. The biggest reason: “I’m concerned about the potential side effects of the vaccine.”

Other reasons included: “I feel the vaccines were created too quickly;”
“I don’t believe the vaccines are effective at preventing the spread
of COVID-19,” and, “I’m not concerned about contracting COVID-19.”

According to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the vaccines may come with certain side effects including pain or swelling in the arm where the vaccine was injected, fever, chills, tiredness and a headache.

The survey was conducted from June 3 to June 14 and involved a sample of Florida residents.

The spread of misinformation about vaccines in the past six months had also played a role in vaccine reluctance, according to the survey. For instance, one of the most common themes was that “vaccines contain a live strain of the virus.”

However, none of the authorized COVID-19 vaccines in the United States contain the live virus that causes COVID-19, according to the CDC’s website. That means a COVID vaccine cannot make someone sick with COVID.

Stephen Neely, associate professor at USF’s School of Public Affairs, said in an email to the Florida Phoenix that public health officials should center public messaging around dispelling myths about vaccines.

“Providing data and guidance to help the public better understand the vaccine development process and the likelihood of an adverse reaction may help to alleviate these concerns,” Neely said.

Meanwhile, the survey also included questions related to vaccine requirements for cruise ships, a controversial issue that has led to an ongoing lawsuit involving the state against the CDC’s safety measures regarding cruise ship operations.

The survey revealed that 43 percent of respondents said “it should be mandatory for guests to provide proof of vaccination on all cruises that port in Florida.” Another 33.2 percent said “that decision should be left to individual cruise lines.”

In Florida, Gov. Ron DeSantis has been in support of reopening Florida’s cruise industry, but he’s against vaccine requirements – a key element by the CDC for safely resuming the industry.

When it comes to vaccines and schools, the survey asked if Florida’s PK-12 schools should require students to be fully vaccinated before returning in the fall.

Overall, 27.5 percent strongly agreed and 34 percent somewhat agreed.

At the college level, 37.5 percent of respondents said Florida’s colleges and universities should require students to be fully vaccinated before
returning to campus. Another 31.3 percent somewhat agreed.

The full study is here.

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Issac Morgan
Issac Morgan

Issac Morgan is a 2009 graduate of Florida A&M University's School of Journalism, and a proud native of Tallahassee. He has covered city council and community events at the Gadsden County Times, worked as a sports news assistant at the Tallahassee Democrat, a communications specialist for the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, and as a proofreader at the Florida Law Weekly.

Diane Rado
Diane Rado

Diane Rado has covered state and local government and public schools in six states over some 30 years, focusing on policy and investigative stories as well as legislative and political reporting. She spent most of her career at the St. Petersburg (Tampa Bay) Times and the Chicago Tribune. She has a master’s degree in journalism from Northwestern University and did a fellowship in education reform at the University of Michigan in 1999-2000. She is married to a journalist and has three adult children.