Fighting vaccine hesitancy is next key battle of COVID-19 pandemic

Nearly 1 in 5 are hesitant to get shot in Miami-Dade and Broward

MIAMI-DADE COUNTY, Fla. – With every American 16 and older now eligible for a vaccine nationwide — and half of U.S. adults already receiving at least one COVID-19 shot — the key conversation in battling the pandemic shifts to vaccine hesitancy.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services estimates that nearly 19% of people in Miami-Dade are hesitant, while in Broward that figure is almost 20%.

A “strongly hesitant” group is estimated at 9% in both counties.

At least 8,069,752 people have received COVID-19 vaccines in Florida, with 5,113,056 people in the state fully vaccinated, according to the latest numbers released Monday by the health department. Miami-Dade has had 1,084,386 people receive at least one shot, and Broward has had 741,622.

Claire Hannan of the Association of Immunization Managers says there are some demographics who appear more hesitant than others.

“There are rural areas, white conservative evangelicals we are seeing, you know, very interested in maintaining their freedom, their liberty, and we do want them to understand the vaccine is for their protection. It is for their freedom,” she said.

[RELATED: Evangelicals struggle to combat coronavirus misinformation, researcher says]

She also said progress is being made to vaccinate more Black Americans, crediting expanded access and successful outreach campaigns.

“Black church leaders, Black doctors talking about getting vaccinated, addressing some of the skepticism,” Hannan said. “We are seeing an increase in Black communities getting vaccinated.”

[RELATED: Miami’s NAACP partners with CVS Health to include predominantly Black neighborhoods]

Local 10 News also asked her what effect the suspension of J&J shot is having on vaccine skepticism. The fact that those six cases of rare blood clots out of nearly 7 million doses administered are under review could actually boost confidence, she said, in showing regulators are focused on vaccine safety.

“It’s really a sign that our system is working, that we were able to catch these really rare effects, and we are taking some time to look into it,” Hannan said.

A CDC committee reviewing the Johnson & Johnson vaccine meets this Friday.

In the meantime, CDC Director Rochelle Walensky warns this remains a critical period where the vaccine rollout is up against the community spread of COVID-19 variants.

“Cases and hospitalizations are increasing,” she said, “and cases from young people who have not yet been vaccinated are also increasing.”

That reflects a trend that has been witnessed locally in South Florida.

About the Author:

Christina returned to Local 10 in 2019 as a reporter after covering Hurricane Dorian for the station. She is an Edward R. Murrow Award-winning journalist and previously earned an Emmy Award while at WPLG for her investigative consumer protection segment "Call Christina."