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As states open eligibility, the 1st big test of America's vaccine hesitancy

Nearly all U.S. adults will shortly be eligible for a shot.

Up until the last few weeks, limited vaccine distribution meant only Americans with the maximum risk of severe illness in the virus and the biggest incentive to safeguard themselves, were entitled. However, by late April, as vaccine supply ramps upward, all adults -- not just those with the most reason to fear that the virus -- will be qualified to lineup and get their shot.

Thus, will they?

"That is when the real work starts," explained Dr. Timothy Callaghan, a health political scientist in Texas A&M University who analyzes vaccine hesitancy.

Callaghan stated public health experts have been gearing up with this particular special fight for months, before earlier vaccine problems were smoothed over.

"We weren't concerned about the supply problems that we were visiting early in the vaccine shipping process," Callaghan said. "We had been worried about what was about to begin to happen from April through July, as nations begin to realize we have the vaccines, however, do not have people to accept them"

Now, on the heels of President Joe Biden's announcement that 90 percent of states will start up to all adults by April 19, the time has arrived.

Meanwhile, about six in 10 Americans reported already getting a vaccine or planning to get one -- a number which has improved -- with 17 percent who said they are taking a"wait and see" approach, according to March polling in the Kaiser Family Foundation. Remaining about the same as December will be the 13% who stated they will"definitely not" get the vaccine.

With the floodgates open to mass vaccination, the spring and summer months should offer a clearer perspective of just how much work has to be performed in order to vaccinate as many Americans as possible, Callaghan said.

One of the earliest states to expand eligibility were Alaska, Mississippi, Texas, West Virginia, Ohio and Utah. As of Thursday, 19 states complete had opened their qualification to adults 16 and older, and another 27 states plus Washington, D.C., had announced plans to do so.

Many rural and Republican countries have already seen signs of ancient hesitancy that enabled them, in part, to start their schooling rollout up into the broader population earlier than any other countries. Polling has shown individuals residing in red, rural countries report more vaccine hesitancy.

Back in Ohio, the governor said they've seen less curiosity about vaccine enrollment as they open it up to younger inhabitants.

"We seem to be having a slower uptake each time we move down in age," Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine, a Republican, said at a press briefing just before the state opened eligibility to all adults on March 29. "ButI mean, the interesting thing is in the elderly groups, you continue to see those numbers go up," he said, noting the amount of vaccinated people in their 80s is continuing to rise.

DeWine openly confessed he was concerned about drug hesitancy getting in the method of herd immunity for the nation, however.

"Frankly, a great deal is gont rely on our young people's willingness to take this vaccine and to slow down the spread," DeWine said.

And in West Virginia, the nation's coronavirus response coordinator, Clay Marsh, said that they had been surprised that as many men and women are getting vaccinated as they are.

"We did anticipate having a lot more vaccine hesitancy," Marsh said, noting that people from rural and Republican areas of the country are more reluctant than people from urban and Democrat regions.

"Well, we are pretty rural and we're pretty Republican," Marsh continued.

And while they've seen pockets of hesitancy,'' Marsh said, the state has been pleased that 70% of people in the 65+ age group have gotten vaccines. In December, state data showed that roughly 45% of the state was either less prepared or reluctant to get a vaccine.

Back in Mississippi, one local doctor suggested individuals are waiting for the vaccine to appear in their physician's office before they receive the shot. The country opened up eligibility to all adults fourteen days ago and proceeds to get tens of thousands of available appointments.

"It's not so much hesitancy as it is access for nearly all of our patients," explained Dr. Laura Miller, a family physician who mostly treats patients from rural, minority communities in Jefferson Davis County, Mississippi.

Since nearly half of all the vaccines in Mississippi have been offered at drive-thru mass vaccination clinics as well as other state-run sites, Miller sees a lot of patients who want to or have to wait till they can get the vaccine closer to home, at a more comfortable setting.

"I've patients here that want to get their shot, they just don't have a way to get there or don't need to until I can do it," Miller said.

There's also"some hesitancy, and there's some straight denial," she added.

Still, Miller predicted when there's enough vaccine distribution to get out doses to individual pharmacies and clinics,"we will have some rather steady uptake." On Monday, Biden stated that by April 19, 90 percent of Americans will live within 5 kilometers of a vaccination site.

Taken collectively, even among countries that discuss population demographics and demographics, there's still not a sole factor that may predict vaccine hesitancy.

Jeff Zients, Biden's coronavirus response planner, told reporters at a briefing last week that he was not concerned about states that were opening their eligibility up to all adults well beforehand of the May 1 deadline.

"If you can find states that are lagging behind, we are working with these states to ensure that they continue to prioritize the most vulnerable populations. That said, with the increase in need, we think it's a good thing that says are opening up eligibility to all Americans no later than May 1st," Zients stated Friday.

But while there will be individuals who want the vaccine and individuals who do not, states will also have to do more than just open up qualification to achieve herd immunity.

They might have to enhance systems which makes it tougher for people to get the vaccine, compounding hesitancy that already exists.

Long drives to unknown towns or cities in which vaccines are being dispersed, clunky registration websites, long hold times on the phone and absence of outreach can give the impression of"vaccine hesitancy," when in fact, community members are ready to find the vaccine but confront logistical hurdles, that are often worse in poorer communities.

Experts also have warned that opening eligibility widely could allow people with easier access to transportation and technologies to jump over less advantaged individuals for appointments.

"That really is a potential red flag and something to know about," Callaghan said. "To attempt to work against that, says will need to be paying attention to people they're vaccinating to a daily and weekly basis to say'fine, we're not getting enough individuals from this at-risk community or that at-risk neighborhood, so perhaps we must set aside some appointments for those groups to be certain they are still getting vaccinated.'"

There'll also be unpredictable advantages to widely opening up qualification, like the power of peer pressure.

As more people receive the vaccine, they will share how they obtained it and what it felt like with their family and friends, increasing trust in the shooter.

However, for the upcoming several weeks, the result will be unknown.

"You can't really say that hesitancy is your cause until you've given people a chance to vaccinate and then they choose not to," Callaghan said.

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