My turn for the COVID-19 vaccine still hasn’t come up, and I’m counting down the days. I know, of course, that there are people who refuse to get the vaccine, but frankly, it’s hard for me to understand that mindset — don’t we all want to finally consign this pandemic to the dustbin of history and get back to normal life?
But I guess that just makes me a typical Seattleite.
According to a new survey from the U.S. Census Bureau, which was conducted from March 3-15, there were more than 2.1 million adults in the Seattle metro area who had not yet been vaccinated. Of those, 73% — that’s nearly 1.6 million people — said they definitely plan to get the vaccine.
That 73% ranks Seattle No. 1 for willingness to be vaccinated (among those who have not yet been), out of the 15 largest U.S. metro areas. At the other end of the spectrum, in California’s Riverside-San Bernardino metro, just 43% of those who were unvaccinated in March said they definitely planned to take the vaccine.
The Seattle metro area, which includes King, Pierce and Snohomish counties, also ranks far higher than the national average, which was 51% in the March survey.
The data comes from Household Pulse Survey, a new endeavor by the U.S. Census Bureau in conjunction with five other federal agencies. Unlike other census products, which have a long lag time, the Household Pulse Survey provides near real-time data.
In January, I wrote about an earlier release of this survey, when the questions about the vaccine were first included. And the data shows that attitudes about the vaccines have changed since then. It seems that concerns have diminished in the past couple of months and that comfort level has increased — at least in the Seattle area.
Back in January, there were about 2.9 million in our metro who had not yet been vaccinated. Of those, about 2 million, or 68%, said they definitely would take it when their turn came (at that point, Seattle ranked second behind San Francisco for willingness to be vaccinated).
As more of us got vaccinated, the share of the remaining unvaccinated population who said they would definitely get the vaccine increased 5 percentage points to 73%. The total number of those who were unsure or unwilling in the Seattle metro dropped from roughly 900,000 in January to less than 600,000 in March.
In most of the largest metro areas — 10 of the 15 (including Seattle) — the willingness to get vaccinated among the unvaccinated increased or stayed about the same. The biggest change was in Miami, where willingness to be vaccinated jumped from 47% to 55%.
But five metros saw a decline. The most dramatic drop was in Detroit, which went from 52% in January to 45% in March.
Nationally, the number is unchanged from January, at 51%.
The survey also asks about the reasons someone might be on the fence about the vaccine, or completely against it. The changes since January in the Seattle area are remarkable.
While the top concern remains safety, the level of those concerns has dropped precipitously. In January, about 550,000 Seattle-area adults were concerned about side effects. By March, that number had been cut in half. And the number who said they would wait and see if the vaccine is safe dropped nearly as much.
The number who said they didn’t want to get the vaccine because they felt other people needed it more also dropped by more than 50%.
In fact, every reason for being reluctant or refusing to take the vaccine has gone down except for one. The No. 3 reason given — distrust of the government — held steady at more than 150,000.
Statewide, 67% of unvaccinated Washingtonians will definitely get vaccinated. That ranks second among the states, behind Vermont (69%). Of course, with the Seattle metro area making up a little more than half of Washington’s adult population, we have a major impact on the statewide number. The state with the lowest percentage who said they will definitely be vaccinated is Mississippi, at 24%.
Although the Seattle metro area ranked No. 1 for willingness to be vaccinated against COVID-19, the availability of the vaccine isn’t on par with the demand.
At the time of the survey, just 29% of adults in our area said they had received at least one dose of the vaccine. That ranked us 15th out of the 15 largest metros. In some other states, all adults are already eligible to be vaccinated.
San Francisco ranked way out in front, with 41% of adults having received at least one shot.