Survey: Interest from Detroit residents in getting COVID-19 vaccine ticks up

Kim Kozlowski
The Detroit News

A growing number of Detroit residents say they plan to get the COVID-19 vaccine but researchers said Tuesday more people need to be convinced to get the vaccine to achieve herd immunity. 

A University of Michigan survey, conducted Jan. 6 through March 5, shows that 38% of Detroit residents said they are "very likely" to get the COVID-19 vaccine when it becomes available. When adding in those who said they are "likely" to get the vaccine, the number jumps to 50%.

That figure is in tandem with 49.1% of residents nationwide who say they will get the vaccine, according to a February report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Only 14% of Detroiters said they would be "very likely" to get the vaccine in a survey last fall. Nationwide, the percentage of those who are willing to get the vaccine has increased by nearly 10 percent since September.

But 50% is not enough to reach herd immunity, which is often calculated at 70%, said Lydia Wileden, a UM public policy and sociology doctoral candidate who analyzed the survey data.

"It's encouraging to see Detroiters' increased intentions to get the vaccine, but clearly more work remains to expand access and counteract fear and misinformation, especially in harder to reach populations and those most impacted - economically and physically - by the COVID-19 pandemic," said Wileden.

"How do we overcome possibly 20% of the population that we really need to get vaccinated so we can breathe easy and have herd immunity and protect the vulnerable who can't get vaccinated or children who aren't eligible to vaccinated yet?" asked Wiledan. "That is a pretty serious question."

The survey is part of the university's Detroit Metro Area Communities Study, and shows that the most important reason residents will get the vaccine is to protect themselves, their families and keep their community safe. The least important reason is whether others they know are getting vaccinated and where the vaccine was made, officials say.

The biggest difference between those willing and unwilling to get the vaccine is linked to how they view science on the effectiveness of the vaccine and their doctor's advice.

Among those likely to get the vaccine, 94% of Detroit residents say scientific findings on vaccine effectiveness played an important role in their decision, but 62% of those unlikely to vaccinate say the effectiveness is important.

Meanwhile, Detroit residents who say they will likely get the vaccine are much more likely to consider their doctors' advice is important (80%) compared to those unlikely to vaccinate (54%).

Residents of color and women were less likely to say they would get the vaccine, the survey showed. Those who lack trust in the U.S. government were half as likely to say they would get the vaccine. Those with more education and income were more likely to get the vaccine.

Jeffrey Morenoff, one of the faculty research leads for DMACS and also a professor of public policy and sociology and research professor at U-M's Institute for Social Research, added it's not clear how many Detroit residents will not be able to get vaccines due to access issues because the survey was written before vaccines were available. But those questions will be asked in the next survey, he said.

"We recognize that issues of access are equally if not more important than whatever hesitancy we may be picking up in the population," said Morenoff.

DMACS has been surveying representative samples of Detroiters since 2016 on a variety of issues.

This is the third time residents have been asked about the vaccine.

In July, DMAS we asked residents how much they agreed with the statement "I intend to get a COVID-19 vaccine as soon as it is available." At that time, 25% strongly disagreed they would get the vaccine as soon as it became available, while 24% strongly agreed. 

The survey included 2,238 residents. Researchers weighted survey responses to match Detroit's population demographics to present views of the entire city.

It was conducted in collaboration with Michigan CEAL: Communities Conquering COVID (C3), a transdisciplinary partnership of researchers and community leaders that aims to include marginalized communities in COVID-19 research and prevention in order to reduce health inequities in the state.