Two-thirds of North Carolinians worry about side effects of COVID-19 vaccine

By Andrew Dunn

Raleigh, NC – Nearly two-thirds of North Carolinians worry about harmful side effects of the COVID-19 vaccine, even as a growing majority say they’ll take it to get back to normal life.

Photo by Roger Starnes Sr

A new public opinion survey released by the N.C. Department of Health and Human Services reported that more than a quarter of North Carolinians say they have received at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine. The state says about 40% of adults have been at least partially vaccinated, but a significant percentage of the state is remaining cautious about its effects.

In the survey, 53% of respondents said they would “definitely” get the vaccine, most of whom already had. Another 16% said they would “probably” get it.

Twenty-one percent said they would definitely not get the vaccine, with an additional 13% saying they would probably not get it.

Still, 63% of North Carolinians said they worry about harmful side effects, and a majority said they don’t want to be a “test case” for a new drug. A slight majority of black North Carolinians said they would not get the vaccine or weren’t sure.

According to the survey, the top reason for people’s willingness to take the vaccine is a return to normalcy — “to get life back to normal, get people back to work, kids in school and people back together at events and celebration,” as the questioners put it.

It is unclear how many people need to receive the vaccine before Gov. Roy Cooper will end the severe restrictions on public gatherings and businesses. He has only said that vaccines “get us closer” to moving past the pandemic.

The state Democratic Party is going further. The party posted a message implying the state can’t return to normal until all people are vaccinated. 

“The sooner everyone is vaccinated, the sooner we can get back to safely gathering with loved ones,” the party wrote on Twitter.

The state’s vaccination efforts hit a hiccup this week. Clinics in Wake and Orange counties halted distribution of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine on Thursday after more than a dozen recipients had “adverse reactions.”

In the survey, most people did not state a preference for which vaccine they would like. Of those who did, 56% said they wanted the one-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine.

An Elon University poll released Friday, April 9, found a larger segment of North Carolina residents now in favor of getting vaccinated, with 63% of adults saying they have been vaccinated or plan to, a news release says.

That growth appears driven by a shift within the population by those who had previously been unsure about vaccination, says Jason Husser, director of the Elon Poll and associate professor of political science.

“Vaccine support has increased dramatically since we started tracking attitudes in October 2020,” Husser said in a statement. “At that time, only 33% of North Carolina residents said ‘yes’ when asked about their vaccine plans. Now, 63%  have either already taken a vaccine or plan to take it when they can.”

The Elon Poll found that those who have been vaccinated are overwhelming positive about getting the vaccine, with 92.5% saying they are glad they got it, more than 80% saying the experience was “very easy” or “somewhat easy,” and two-thirds saying they experienced no negative side effects, the release says. Sixty-nine percent of those who did experience negative side effects say it was no more than “a minor disruption.”

Among those who don’t plan to take the vaccine or are not sure if they will, concerns about side effects ranked high. Fifty-nine percent say they are “very worried” about the side effects, and another 29% say they are “somewhat worried.”

Elon surveyed 1,395 residents March 30 through April 2 using an online opt-in sample marketplace, with a plus or minus 2.8% credibility interval. 

Andrew Dunn is a freelance writer for Carolina Journal.