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Exclusive: Acceptance of COVID-19 vaccine is rising, but so is pessimism about getting back to normal

Susan Page and Sarah Elbeshbishi, USA TODAY
·3 min read
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Acceptance of the COVID-19 vaccine continues to soar, a new USA TODAY/Suffolk University Poll finds, but pessimism is also on the rise about when things in the United States will get back to normal.

Both results may be signs that the messages from President-elect Joe Biden are being heard. He has taken the vaccine himself, and on camera – something President Donald Trump hasn't done – and he has cautioned that the pandemic is going to get worse before it gets better.

Now 56% of those surveyed say they will get the vaccine as soon it was available to them, a jump of 10 percentage points since the USA TODAY poll in December and up 30 points since October.

Ariane Schieber of at Ohio State University's East Hospital prepares to vaccinate front-line workers.
Ariane Schieber of at Ohio State University's East Hospital prepares to vaccinate front-line workers.

"The more people that get a vaccination and they see that it's safe ... then more people are willing to go get it," said Shellie Belapurkar, 50, a nurse-practitioner from Nashua, New Hampshire, who was among those surveyed. She has gotten the vaccine herself and has been volunteering at a clinic each week to give it to others.

"It's all about education, and I don't think we've educated our population nearly enough to the dangers" of the coronavirus, she said in an interview.

Most of the shift has come from those who were reluctant to get the vaccine until others had taken it first. Those who expressed that view made up 47% in October, 32% in December and just 22% now.

"When they first announced that the vaccine was available, I was a little bit hesitant," said Sandi Bethune, 71, a retired training manager for AT&T from Oakland, California. "I was never not going to get it, but I wanted to wait for a while and let some other people be the guinea pigs." Now, she said, "as soon as I can take it, I'm taking it."

But those who declare they will not get the vaccine has barely budged, edging down to 18% now compared with 20% in October and December.

"There's so much in it that's not good for our bodies," said Brook-lyn Parker, 28, a cosmetologist from Watertown, New York, who said she would never get the shot. "For me, natural immunization is a better way to go as far as COVID goes, kind of like the flu." As evidence, she noted that she has never gotten the flu vaccine but has caught the flu only twice.

Independent fact-checkers have reported that COVID-19 is much more deadly than the flu, and relying on "herd immunity" without a vaccine would result in the deaths of millions of Americans.

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The poll of 1,000 registered voters, taken by landline and cellphone Jan. 11-15, has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.1 percentage points.

Optimism about when things in the United States will get back to normal has ebbed.

In December, a 51% majority predicted things would return to normal by the end of this year. Now just 44% feel that way, down 7 points. The proportion who say it will take several years has risen 4 points, to 31%.

One in 5, or 20%, asked when the nation will get back to normal, replied "never."

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This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Poll: COVID vaccine acceptance rises; so does pessimism