DETROIT - Black Michigan voters are among the most hesitant groups of people to say they will take the COVID-19 vaccine when it becomes available, despite the pandemic's disproportionate health and economic effects it's had on minority groups.
Only a third of Black voters said they would take the coronavirus vaccine, one of the most striking figures from a new survey looking at public opinion of the pandemic and economy.
Despite the hesitancy from minority demographics, a majority of Michiganders say they will take the coronavirus vaccine, an overall increase from a previous survey conducted in late October.
The increase was among the biggest shifts among resident opinions of COVID-19 and the economy in a new Detroit Regional Chamber survey released Tuesday. Most other questions featured little sway in public opinion.
But the hesitancy of nearly 45% of the state and almost 67% of Black voters in Michigan underscores just how difficult it will be to effectively administer a vaccine to the state.
"The reluctance reflects the mistrust caused by past governmental abuse related to vaccines and public health trials," read part of the DRC survey.
Black residents were among the hardest-hit demographics when the pandemic first surged into the state, killing and causing severe side effects at a disproportionate rate compared to white residents. The state of Michigan has worked to reduce that disparity by increasing access to testing in poorer communities.
But the legacy of abuses like the Tuskegee Institute syphilis study in the 1930s weighs heavily in the minds of Black voters.
Other groups like those ages 18-29 and 30-39 also expressed skepticism about taking the vaccine.
On Monday, Michigan began administering the first of 83,000 doses it plans to distribute as part of the first wave of treatments in December.
Last week, Dr. Joneigh Khaldun said the health department was aiming to vaccinate 70% of adults in the state by the end of 2021. Part of Michigan's plan to boost vaccination rates is the state's new bipartisan commission that will work on increasing awareness of the treatment.
“Right now, we are on the brink of great breakthroughs when it comes to a safe and effective COVID-19 vaccine, and we must begin to educate Michiganders about how important it is that we all get vaccinated so we can eradicate this virus once and for all. That’s what the Protect Michigan Commission is all about,” said Gov. Whitmer last Friday.
Other parts of the survey showed "remarkable stability" after there was little to no shift in public opinion on several other topics like approval for Gov. Gretchen Whitmer and the severity of the pandemic.
At the same time, voters eyed supporting small businesses as one of the highest priorities to keep the economy on track. Fifty-eight percent of voters believe that should be the first issue that state leaders work on once the state emerges from the pandemic.
Political affiliation was the biggest factor determining the necessity of wearing a mask, with about 80% of voters supporting mandates to wear one in public. Only 16.8% of voters said they work a mask most of the time or occasionally.
By a margin of 68.2% - 29.8%, voters support the state legislature passing a requirement that everyone should wear a mask.