SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO) — The characteristics of most of South Dakota’s population means many of those who have gotten vaccinated would be similar to those who haven’t.
South Dakota Department of Health Secretary Kim Malsam-Rysdon said in today’s news briefing that 54% of the state’s residents have gotten at least one dose of the two-dose vaccinations. And 44% are fully vaccinated. The state data includes residents 16 and older and uses the 2019 estimated U.S. Census population.
Still, Malsam-Rysdon said there are those resistant or hesitant to get a vaccine in the state.
Health officials have said vaccines are key in ending the pandemic and reaching a herd immunity. The Centers for Disease Control has said 70% of the population needs to be immunized to reach herd immunity for COVID-19.
“We don’t see vaccines as political,” Malsam-Rysdon said. Getting a vaccine isn’t a Republican or Democratic issue, she said.
Yet, research on those who don’t plan to get a vaccine in the U.S. shows it could be political for some. The research on those who do not plan to get a vaccine in the U.S. shows that many are white, are younger, and state they are Republicans.
Results from a CIVIQs poll released on April 21 show that 46% who do not plan to get the vaccine said they were Republican. Most of those are white men under the age of 50. The majority who do not plan to get vaccinated do not have a college degree.
Most of South Dakota is white, more than 80% of the population is under 65, and as of April 1, 280,434 of those who registered to vote in the state registered as Republican. The registration data is from the South Dakota Secretary of State website. About half of the state’s population is male.
Those same characteristics the CIVIQS’ poll shows are found in an April survey by Monmouth University, a December survey by QuinnipacPoll and others. Monmouth’s survey said that 43% of those who did not plan on getting vaccinated said they were Republican.
Getting as many people vaccinated as possible is the “quickest way out of this pandemic,” Malsam-Rysdon said.
Non-political in a political arena
The DOH doesn’t want getting a vaccine to be a political issue, yet in South Dakota, the coronavirus pandemic has been somewhat of a political issue for Gov. Kristi Noem.
Noem, a Republican, has repeatedly emphasized maintaining freedom during the pandemic and takes credit for not shutting down the state. She has also repeatedly criticized states with more restrictions, such as New York and Michigan, which are led by Democratic governors. Noem has cited the caseloads, hospitalizations and other data as illustrating that restrictions such as mask mandates do not work.
Noem has often posted photos of herself without a mask at events in South Dakota.
During a Nov. 18 news conference Noem said, “I’ve consistently said that people who want to wear masks should wear masks and people who don’t shouldn’t be shamed because they choose not to,” Noem said. “It has been clear from the beginning that I’m not in favor of mandating mask wearing. I don’t believe I have the authority to mandate that and that people can use their own personal responsibility to make a decision when it comes to masks.”
Based on the research, members of the public who supported Noem’s attitude toward masks and her pandemic approach could also be some of the same people who don’t want a vaccine.
Noem did post a photo of getting the vaccination herself on a social media account on April 5. As of today, the post had at least 7,100 comments. Not all of those who commented were pleased the Noem got her reported first Pfizer dose.
Anti-mask to anti-vax?
On Sept. 1, Johns Hopkins reported in its Biomedical Odyssey that, “many of the arguments used against compulsory masks echoed those used against vaccinations…”
On July 28, BusinessInsider called anti-maskers the new anti-vaxxers before the COVID-19 vaccines were available.
Misinformation includes that vaccines will make someone infertile or that microchips are planted inside a person with the vaccine.
Malsam-Rysdon said the state has seen misinformation spread on social media.
“We’ve come across one mailed piece that was wholly inaccurate,” Maslam-Rysdon said.
It seems it’s easy to spread misinformation.
“Anti-vaccination messages are generally easier to find on the internet, due to their use of content that is more consumer-orientated and user-friendly, as opposed to science-based articles on the pro-vaccine debate, according to a called ‘Vaccine hesitancy and anti-vaccination in the time of COVID-19: A Google Trends analysis,'” published on April 1 by the National Center for Biotechnology Information.
DOH says it’s battling misinformation
DOH officials did not offer specifics on targeting audiences on vaccination but they did say social media posts and other means were part of the strategy.
DOH’s approach is “meeting people where they are at,” said Daniel Bucheli, the DOH’s communications director.
Accurate vaccine information is shared on Facebook and Twitter, Bucheli said.
The DOH also did a statewide mailing.
Malsam-Rysdon said some people who are hesitant need to “hear it a couple of different times,” with regard to the safety and importance of the vaccine.
Still hesitant or resistance but some improvement
Bloomberg reported on Feb. 3 that 69% of South Dakotans said they are open to getting the vaccine, according to a Massachusetts Institute of Technology survey, provided via IHME.
Monmouth University reported on April 14 that 1 in 5 Americans said they were still unwilling to get a vaccine.
An April 2, the Associated Press said its latest AP-NORC poll showed that 75% of adult Americans were willing to get vaccinated. That was an increase from the 67% who were willing to get vaccinated or had already received at least one shot in January.
Delphi Group research said that along with trusted medical care givers, family and friends were the most influential in determining of someone changed their intent to get a vaccine.
Although vaccine resistant is a concern, Malsam-Rysdon is optimistic.
“I do think by the end of the day, South Dakota will make the right choice to get vaccinated,” she said.