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COVID-19

Austin Area Leads The State When It Comes To Willingness To Get A COVID-19 Vaccine

Esmeralda Torres gets vaccinated against COVID-19 at Dell Medical School last month.
Gabriel C. Pérez
/
Esmeralda Torres gets vaccinated against COVID-19 at Dell Medical School last month.

Experts worry that not enough of the population in Texas wants to get vaccinated against COVID-19. The Austin area might be less of a worry, though – for now.

“Travis County is above average in terms of the share of people who are very likely to get a vaccine,” David McClendon, a data researcher with January Advisors, said during an online discussion Friday.

McClendon said he looked into the raw data from a survey published last month by the Episcopal Health Foundation. It showed Travis County was leading the state at 38% for the percentage of people who said they were “very likely” to get the vaccine when it becomes available to them.

When Carnegie Mellon University asked Facebook users a similar question and threw in the word “probably” that figure jumped to 86% in Travis County – the highest percentage of any Texas county. The second highest percentage was Hays County at 82% and Williamson County at 81%. El Paso and Webb County on the southern border were at 80%.

But the research found a serious problem in the rest of the state: Only about 62% of Texans living outside major counties were open to getting the vaccine.

And the Episcopal Health Foundation found similar issues. About 1 in 5 Texans surveyed said they were “very unlikely” to get the vaccine if one were offered.

During Friday's discussion with other advocates, Bob Sanborn, president and CEO of CHILDREN AT RISK, said the state is poised to fall short of the suggested vaccination rate public health experts say is needed to stop the pandemic.

"We have heard mixed messages from all levels of government for many months that have confused the public, and they have damaged credibility and have really let fear and misinformation spread."
Allison Winnike, president and CEO of The Immunization Partnership,

“We are going to have to have a lot of people vaccinated,” he said. “We are talking 70, 80 or 90% of the population that’s going to need to take these vaccinations. Right now, we are not in that position. We are very worried that we are not going to get to where we need to get to.”

Allison Winnike, president and CEO of The Immunization Partnership, said public officials are partly to blame for this hesitancy.

“We have heard mixed messages from all levels of government for many months that have confused the public," she said, "and they have damaged credibility and have really let fear and misinformation spread."

Winnike said local and state governments need to start working now to create more trust around the vaccine.

“These problems with trust, messaging, vaccine availability, frustrations with distribution and access,” she said, “we really need to make sure that we are addressing them.”

Sanborn said this messaging will have to be focused on Latino and Black communities, as well as lower-income and immigrant communities who are currently less likely than other groups to get vaccinated.

“There are parts of the population – these pockets of people – that are much more hesitant than others,” he said.

Sanborn said uninsured people are also a concern, because surveys show they are less likely to get vaccinated right now, too.

“This is worrisome because more people in Texas don’t have health insurance than any other place,” he said. “So this is a very large percentage of our population that is being a little reticent about taking the vaccine.”

Got a tip? Email Ashley Lopez at alopez@kut.org. Follow her on Twitter @AshLopezRadio.

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