A majority of Floridians have received at least one shot of a COVID-19 vaccine, but many still remain hesitant about the jab, according to a newly released survey from the University of South Florida.
The statewide survey, conducted by researchers with the university’s School of Public Affairs, sought to understand why Floridians may be hesitant about the COVID-19 vaccine, as well as examine attitudes toward policies related to vaccines.
Overall, 64% of respondents reported receiving at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, leaving 36% who have not.
The survey found that among adults who have not yet been vaccinated in the state, 35% say they will “probably not” or “definitely not” get vaccinated, and another 24% are still undecided.
So, why are Floridians hesitant?
The survey found that the highest driver of vaccine hesitancy included concerns over potential side effects and fears the vaccines were created too quickly. Of those who said they won’t or likely won’t get vaccinated, 74% cited concerns of side effects, more than 50% feared the quickness of creation and 21% don’t believe the vaccines are effective at preventing the spread of COVID-19.
There is also a problem with misinformation around the vaccine, the survey found.
While only one-third (32%) of total respondents report having spoken with their primary care doctor about the COVID-19 vaccine, a majority of Floridians have encountered misinformation about the vaccine in the past six months.
The survey found that 73% of respondents reported seeing or hearing at least one of eight common misinformation themes related to COVID-19 vaccines. The most frequently encountered falsehoods include: “COVID-19 vaccines contain a ‘live strain’ of the virus” (43%), “COVID-19 vaccines contain 5G Microchips” (38.5%), and “COVID-19 vaccines modify people’s genes and alter their DNA” (36%).
Seeing misinformation was correlated with a decreased likelihood of undergoing vaccination.
Among those who did not report encountering any sources of misinformation, 74% had been vaccinated. That number fell to 63% among those encountering at least one source of misinformation. Only slightly more than half of those (52%) encountering six or more false stories reported being vaccinated
A majority of Floridians favor mandatory vaccinations for students. About two-thirds (61%) of respondents agreed that Florida’s PreK-12 schools should require students to be vaccinated before the fall, and even more (69%) favored mandatory vaccinations for Florida’s college students.
Similar numbers were found for requiring vaccinations for theme park visitors. Just under a third of respondents (30%) said Florida’s theme parks should not be allowed to require guests to provide proof of vaccination, while 30% felt that proof of vaccination should be required. About 40%, however, felt that the decision to require vaccinations should be left to individual parks.
The survey also looked at attitudes around cruise vaccine policies, an issue that has continued to draw scrutiny from lawmakers. Despite the rhetoric from state leadership, the survey reported that 43% of Floridians say proof of vaccination should be mandatory on all cruises porting in the state of Florida, while another 33% felt the decision should be left to individual cruise lines.
The responses from participants varied based on political affiliation, the survey found. Those who identified as Democrats were significantly more likely to have been vaccinated (73%, compared to 58% of Republicans and 56% of independents).
And, Republicans and independents were also significantly more likely to oppose mandatory vaccinations for theme park guests, cruise line guests and students.
The poll included a representative sample of 600 Floridians, surveyed June 3-14. Results are reported with a confidence level of 95% and a margin of error of 4 percentage points.
A second round of results, which examines COVID-19 and hurricane preparedness, is set to be released within the next week.