More than half of Frederick County residents are willing to get the coronavirus vaccine, according to a survey conducted by the county health department.
The survey was conducted online from Dec. 4-11 and generated more than 20,000 responses, including almost 300 from the Spanish-translated survey. Results were announced Tuesday at a public-health briefing from County Executive Jan Gardner.
Fifty-seven percent of the respondents said they wanted to get the vaccine, compared with 23 percent who were not sure and 20 percent who said they would not get it.
Among Black responders, 37.5 percent said they wanted to get the vaccine, while 31 percent said they wouldn’t and 31 percent were not sure.
Eighty-two percent of the survey’s participants were white, while 4.6 percent were Black, 3.8 percent were Asian, and 9.8 percent preferred not to answer. Eighty-six percent were non-Hispanic, 4 percent were Hispanic, and 10 percent preferred not to answer.
Eighty-five percent of the people who responded to the survey were 35 or older. Almost a third of the responders were between the ages of 35 and 44, and 70 percent were female.
The results were announced as Frederick County begins to vaccinate front-line health care workers at Frederick Health Hospital and soon the staff and residents of nursing homes, but it will be months before it becomes available to the general public.
The figures were also announced as the county reported 113 new cases of COVID-19 and moved closer to 10,000 confirmed cases overall. The death toll in the county now stands at 163 after another was reported in the county Tuesday.
Dr. Barbara Brookmyer, the county health officer, said she found it encouraging that more than half of the people who responded to the survey wanted to get the vaccine. But others felt that percentage was not high enough.
Dr. Kathy Weishaar, the vice president of medical affairs at Frederick Health Hospital, said she was “somewhat dismayed” that more people didn’t respond that they wanted the vaccine.
With robust support from the federal government’s Operation Warp Speed program, two coronavirus vaccines received emergency-use authorization from the Food and Drug Administration, smashing records for the time it takes a vaccine to get to market.
According to the survey, 81 percent of the people who will not or were unsure if they would get the vaccine said they were concerned about side effects. There was also considerable concern from the skeptics about the safety of the vaccine and whether it was tested in enough people.
Health officials have stressed the safety and efficacy of the two-shot vaccines from Pfizer and Moderna, both of which received FDA approval within the past two weeks after being tested in more than 65,000 people and demonstrating better than 95 percent efficacy.
There is no way to get COVID-19 from either of these vaccines since they rely on a replication technology known as messenger RNA (mRNA) rather than the actual virus itself. The technology is new to vaccine production but has been used in cancer treatments for more than a decade.
“I think the benefits of getting the vaccine far outweigh the risks,” Weishaar said. “So, I just hope we can get that message out and we try to minimize additional loss from this illness.”
Frederick Health Hospital received its first shipment of the Pfizer vaccine last Thursday and began administering to some of its front-line health care workers later that afternoon.
Cheryl Cioffi, the senior vice president and chief operating officer at FHH, said the hospital invited 1,900 health care workers to receive the vaccine, and more than half had already received it or signed up to receive it. She said the rest could still be deciding if they were going to get it or had not seen the invitation yet.
“I wasn’t surprised, because I think it was a mixed perception of what people plan to do when they’re offered the vaccination,” Cioffi said. “But I do think like what we said. I think they’re going to change their minds once they’ve seen people go before them. We’ve seen that in the hospital.”