Study reveals reasons unvaccinated Floridians haven't taken the shot

As the country works toward a vaccination goal for July, millions of people are waiting to take the shot or just don’t want it and a group of USF researchers looked into what’s behind vaccine hesitancy in Florida. 

Of the 600 Floridians surveyed by the University of South Florida about the COVID-19 vaccine, the majority got the vaccine. But a third of them told researchers they probably or would definitely not get a dose, and another 25% of Floridians said they were still making up their minds. 

"When we ask them the why, we asked them what’s holding them back from getting vaccinated, by far the most common response is that they’re concerned about the side effects or the potential side effects from the vaccine," said Stephen Neely, an associate professor at USF’s School of Public Affairs.

Neely managed all the survey data, and he said most of the people they surveyed did not talk with their doctor about the vaccine.

"I think it’s particularly important for those who have concerns. For those who may have concerns about the potential side effects, your primary care physician knows your medical history," said Neely. "They can identify any potential risk factors. They can address any potential concerns you might have."

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Vaccines have been out for half a year now, and Neely said they found what people read or heard in the last six months influenced them.

"So there’s definitely a link between being exposed to misinformation about the vaccines and people’s choices about whether or not to get vaccinated, and that’s probably the biggest takeaway from the results," said Neely.

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As for where the shot should be required, USF researchers took the public’s pulse on those policies. Over 60% of people agreed with schools requiring the shot, but they were divided on mandatory shots for theme park visitors. Floridians polled were also a bit more supportive of mandatory shots for cruises.

"We always want to give people an opportunity to sound off and share their opinions on these issues that are important and then just kind of put the data out there and let decision-makers see it for what it is," said Neely.

Researchers said the feedback shows how everyone has different comfort levels, and they said that’s important to keep in mind while the country works toward herd immunity.