NEWARK, NJ — As Newark officials increase efforts to roll out vaccines into the city’s underserved communities, a new poll found that more New Jersey voters were willing to receive the vaccine with a notable gain among Hispanic voters.
The survey, conducted by Change Research and commissioned by Newark-based non-profit Project Ready, interviewed more than 900 people and found that the number of voters willing to be vaccinated increased from 60% in November 2020 to 71% in the most recent poll. One of the largest gains since the November tally came from Hispanic voters as well whose willingness to receive the vaccine increased from 55% to 77%.
“While it’s encouraging to see acceptance of the vaccine increase, we clearly have more work to do to ensure that the distribution is equitable,” Project Ready Executive Director Shennell McCloud said in a statement. “We encourage state leaders to double-down on efforts to engage communities of color when it comes to the vaccine.”
Although several gains were reported, it also said there was virtually no shift among Black voters to say they would receive the vaccine, which only increased from 61% to 62%. The report also indicates stark racial disparities among those who have received the vaccine to date.
When participants were asked why they didn't plan to take the vaccine, one of the biggest reasons given was that people wanted to wait and confirm the vaccine was safe or simply didn't trust vaccines altogether. According to the poll, Black voters particularly are more than twice as likely (31%) to say they don’t trust vaccines compared to white voters (15%).
A week after Essex County officials announced a partnership with faith leaders of the area’s Black and brown communities to receive their vaccines, Newark Mayor Ras Baraka carried this effort forward by joining multiple pastors and ministers in the community as they got their first doses on Feb. 17 at the Department of Health and Community Wellness on William Street, encouraging residents to do the same.
Although the mayor encouraged Newarkers to get the vaccine, he said it didn’t come without careful consideration given the historical skepticism and distrust many Black Americans have towards vaccinations.
One of these incidents includes the infamous medical treatment poor Black men received in Tuskegee, Alabama where, for 40 years, the United States Public Health Service, working with the Tuskegee Institute, analyzed the progression of untreated syphilis in these patients, even after effective treatments for the disease became available, subsequently costing many lives.
“I don’t think we should belittle the history of it,” Baraka said. “I think people are afraid, and they have a right to be. And it’s not just about history, it’s also about the present.”
The report also stated that 59% of the respondents rate the state’s vaccine rollout negatively. The greatest divides in these results fall along partisan lines - 58% of Democrats say the state has done an “excellent” or “good” job in rolling out the vaccine, compared to just 6% of Republicans and 23% of independents.
Broken down by race, 57% of Black voters rated the state’s work positively compared with 49% of Hispanics and 27% of white voters.