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About half of adults in Idaho who have yet to receive the COVID-19 vaccine can’t be persuaded to get the shots, according to the state’s latest survey of unvaccinated residents.

The survey, released by Gov. Brad Little’s office Wednesday, polled 300 adult Idaho residents who have not yet received the COVID-19 vaccine. Of those surveyed, 55% said they “definitely” will not get the vaccine — and they weren’t swayed by incentives. The survey has a 5.7% margin of error.

Another 19% of total survey respondents said they “probably” won’t get the vaccine, and 22% said they will likely get the vaccine. Only 5% of respondents to the survey said they will definitely get vaccinated.

Robert Jones, a partner at GS Strategy Group, said the state is developing more of a long-term goal to get as many people vaccinated as possible. Certain “triggers” over time may motivate more Idaho residents to think differently, such as approval of the vaccines by the Food and Drug Administration beyond emergency use.

Through Wednesday, 50.3% of Idaho adults had received at least one dose of the vaccine. That’s 15.3 points below the national average, according to the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare.

“There’s a lot more people ultimately who will get vaccinated than will not,” Jones said. “As more time goes on, every indication from Idahoans is that they’re going to be more likely to get the vaccine. … I think it’s just going to be a long-term struggle.”

Unvaccinated Idahoans more worried about vaccines than COVID-19

In a June 17 memo, GS Strategy Group outlined recommendations to the state out of the survey results. Those recommendations focused on two target groups: respondents who said they are likely to get the vaccine and those considered “persuadable” — the respondents who said they “probably” won’t get the vaccine.

Unvaccinated respondents who can’t be persuaded listed a distrust in the science as the most common reason they haven’t gotten vaccinated.

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But what do the target groups want to hear about the COVID-19 vaccine? They want to be assured it’s safe, the survey showed. Among those groups, respondents said the most common reason they haven’t gotten vaccinated is that they want to “wait and see how things go.”

“What is interesting is the consistency of people’s desire to understand and be told about the safety of these vaccines,” Jones said.

Respondents more often said they weren’t concerned about the dangers of COVID-19. Rather, they’re worried about the safety of the vaccine. When asked how common they thought significant side effects were, beyond the expected soreness, fever and fatigue, 68% of respondents said common or very common.

Recommendations from GS Strategy Group included providing convenient locations to get the vaccine, such as pharmacies, and time off work. Other incentives — such as guns, jet skis, money or a lottery — were less popular among those who may get the vaccine.

Dr. David Pate, former CEO of St. Luke’s Health System and a member of Little’s coronavirus task force, said for those who can be persuaded, the trick is to find out their specific reason not to get vaccinated. He said he makes sure people also understand the risks of not getting vaccinated beyond health risks — travel restrictions or employment opportunities, for example.

“I assume that they have a very good reason for themselves,” Pate said. “I try to figure out, what is it? Because if you just start talking to somebody who is vaccine hesitant about all the reasons that they should get vaccinated, you don’t really get to … their particular concern.”

Among respondents who said they will get vaccinated, 64% of them said they need time off work. Little last week said he would provide state employees with additional paid time off to get the COVID-19 vaccine.

Recommendations also included promoting family vaccinations after the survey showed many unvaccinated adults lived with family members who have been vaccinated. More than half in the target group said their live-in partner already received the vaccine.

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