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ETSU poll finds four of five Tennesseans would get COVID-19 vaccine if available

Jonathan Roberts • Updated May 21, 2020 at 8:31 PM

A new poll from East Tennessee State University's Applied Social Research Lab found four in five Tennesseans would be willing to get vaccinated against COVID-19 if one becomes available.

Though 79% of the 618 said they would get vaccinated, only 30% of those said they would be among the first to get the vaccine. Sixteen percent said they would be among the last to get a vaccine, with age and political affiliations playing a factor in when or if people would seek out the vaccine.

“I don’t think anything has been a particular surprise,” Dr. Candace Forbes Bright said of the data. “We see a lot of the patterns we see in previous (polls) as far as political differences in response to the virus.

“I think we were a little surprised by, if anything, by the number of people who were still unsure which was about 6% on average — which isn’t that high, but there were different patterns in who was still unsure that we kind of had to take a second look at,” Bright continued.

According to the poll, only 25% of Republicans said they would be among the first to get a vaccine, compared to 41% of Democrats.

Twenty percent of Republicans also said they would not get vaccinated, compared to 9% of Democrats. In addition, the poll found that people who turned to Fox News as a trusted source for COVID-19 information were less likely to get the vaccine, while those who relied on MSNBC were more likely to get it.

Age also played a factor, with 40% of Baby Boomers — one of the most at-risk age demographics for the virus — saying they’d be among the first to get the vaccine. Gen-Zers were least likely to be among the first to get a vaccine, though they had the highest number of respondents who said they would get it at some point.

Bright said that, in some respects, the Tennessee poll could reflect similar trends in the relationships between different demographics such as generation and political party across the country, though it’s “hard” to say for certain and it’s likely the numbers vary state-to-state.

The study has a margin of error of 3.9% at the 95% confidence level for the entire sample. The results of Thursday’s poll are the latest in a series of polls being conducted by the university on a variety of topics related to COVID-19 and the 2020 election.

Earlier this week, drug company Moderna reported what it called “positive” results in its first round of testing for a COVID-19 vaccine, though it was a small trial and the company has released limited data on the results. A separate vaccine being developed by Johnson and Johnson and the Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston has reportedly protected monkeys from COVID-19, according to the New York Times.

Still, health experts have cautioned that a vaccine could still take more than a year to develop. In a congressional testimony, Dr. Anthony Fauci, Director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, told senators that “there’s no guarantee that the vaccine is actually going to be effective,” but that he’s “cautiously optimistic.”

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