SIOUX FALLS, S.D. — North and South Dakotans are less willing to get vaccinated against COVID-19 than residents in many states, including neighboring Minnesota, according to national polling results released this week.
North Dakota leads the nation in the percentage of people who said they're hesitant to get vaccinated, while South Dakota is home to one of the largest shares of people who said they had no plans to get a COVID-19 vaccine, according to a Morning Consult poll released Thursday, April 22. Minnesotans, meanwhile, fall closer to the national average for vaccine hesitancy and resistance.
The polling raises real questions for the vaccine rollouts in the Dakotas, where now anyone age 16 and older can get vaccinated at no cost. Both states are, like other states, seek to vaccinate enough of their residents to reach herd immunity, estimated to be about 70% of the population, to effectively squelch the spread of COVID-19.
Both states have made significant progress in vaccinating their populations. North Dakota reports 47% of its population has gotten a initial vaccine shot, although that number is likely higher since it doesn't include vaccines provided through federal programs such as the Indian Health Service and the Veterans Affairs. South Dakota, which reports a combined percentage, reports 54% of those age 16 and older in the state have gotten at least a single shot.
But in North Dakota, according to the polling, 21% of those polled said they were uncertain about the vaccine and 24% said they had no plans to get one. In South Dakota, 15% said they weren't sure if they would get vaccinated, and 28% said they wouldn't get the vaccine. Minnesota, by comparison, polled at 13% uncertain and 17% unwilling.
While Morning Consult didn't examine state-specific reasons residents might be concerned about the vaccine or not interested in getting one, the national figures indicated some overlap among residents of the Dakotas.
Among those most resistant to the vaccine were Republicans, especially women and those without a college degree, rural dwellers with low incomes and those age 18-34.
Top three reasons of concern for those unwilling or uncertain about getting the vaccine were that they were concerned about side effects, worried the vaccines moved through clinical trials too fast, and didn't trust the companies making the vaccines. Those who said they didn't plan to get vaccinated were significantly more convinced they couldn't trust vaccine makers compared those who were only hesitant about the vaccine.
Morning Consult has been regularly polling Americans about their feelings regarding COVID-19 vaccines, and the pollster had tracked a growing acceptance toward vaccinations -- although that acceptance appears to be leveling off.
If vaccine skepticism and resistance solidifies, health officials will have their work cut out for them as they seek to reach herd immunity and avoid their states being places where cases of COVID-19 can erupt again and again.