A new statewide poll suggests there may be little if anything that Gov. Doug Ducey and his new $400-an-hour health adviser can do to convince many more Arizonans to get vaccinated against COVID-19.
The survey conducted this month by OH Predictive Insights finds an increasing number of residents are more pessimistic about what is happening with the virus. Even among those unwilling to take the vaccine, nearly a quarter are extremely or moderately concerned about the current state of the pandemic in Arizona, with another half saying they have at least a slight concern.
Yet about 60% of the people who are concerned still say they are not willing to get inoculated. And by a virtually identical number, they say that the new more transmissible delta variant had no effect on their willingness to get inoculated.
In fact, pollster Mike Noble found 18% said the delta variant actually made them less likely to roll up their sleeves.
All that, he said, undermines efforts to reach “herd immunity” in Arizona, the point at which a sufficient percentage are inoculated to make it difficult for the virus to rapidly spread.
And he pointed out the percentage of those who want to remain unvaccinated really has not changed in the last six months.
That appears to be borne out by the state’s own vaccination numbers.
Vaccinations dropped below 10,000 a day in July. Even with news of the delta variant, they have not hit 20,000 a day since, and are again declining.
That compares with close to 80,000 vaccinations a day at the peak of late March and early April.
As of Tuesday, 57.4% of Arizonans had at least one dose. Fewer than 51% are fully inoculated.
It was for that reason that Ducey last month said he hired Dr. Richard Carmona, a former U.S. surgeon general, with the specific goal of boosting vaccine acceptance.
Carmona has said he is looking at a new and different public education campaign to address those who he believes are getting bad information about the vaccine.
The state has had a series of public service announcements urging people to get vaccinated, including appeals by former health director Cara Christ and community leaders.
Carmona said there probably are up to 15% of Arizonans who, for whatever reason, simply will not get vaccinated. Still, he said herd immunity is possible if Arizona gets to that 85% level.
He promised a new approach. Details, however, have been sparse. Carmona has made some general comments about emphasizing the benefits to the economy of having a vaccinated population.
Gubernatorial press aide C.J. Karamargin pointed out that Carmona has been on board for less than a month. “You’re expecting instant results?” he asked.
Karamargin, whose boss signed legislation forbidding schools from imposing mask mandates and opposes mandated vaccines, said Ducey still believes that vaccines “are the best way to put COVID behind us.”
“Dr. Carmona is well-equipped to lead this effort,” Karamargin said. “And he, himself, has said that it’s going to require hard work on everyone’s part to persuade those who may be hesitant to change their views.”
State health officials, in confirming that Carmona will be paid $400 an hour, said there is no set number of hours or specific limit on his earnings, saying only this is supposed to be a part-time role for him along with the work he does at the University of Arizona and other entities.
On the subject of schools, Noble said he found that 58% of those questioned support the idea that schools — not parents — should make the decision about whether students should have to wear masks despite the governor signing legislation that bans districts from enforcing such rules. That tracks closely with a different survey released earlier this month by the Arizona School Boards Association and the Arizona Public Health Association.
By a nearly 2-1 ratio in Noble’s poll, those surveyed oppose Ducey’s unilateral decision to withhold certain federal COVID relief dollars from schools that have so far ignored the yet-to-take-effect law and required students to mask up.
Ducey, who cannot seek a third term, has previously pronounced himself unconcerned with such numbers.
“I’m not going to pay attention to any poll as I’m trying to put out good public policy,” he said.
The online opt-in survey of 1,000 Arizonans was conducted between Sept. 7 and Sept. 12 and has a margin of error of 3.1%.