Why more Detroiters aren’t getting vaccinated: Fear

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Just under 40 percent of Detroiters are vaccinated, compared to almost 68% of Oakland County residents. (Shutterstock image)

An ongoing survey from the University of Michigan has found that almost 30% of the Detroiters who have not received a coronavirus vaccine are concerned about their safety.  

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That’s troubling for Detroit, which experienced high death rates early on in the pandemic and, a year later, cases are increasing again. Though the city reached a statewide low in coronavirus cases by following social distancing and mask mandates, many refuse to follow vaccine recommendations.

Researchers from U-M are tracking Detroiters’ feelings on coronavirus and the vaccine through an ongoing community study, which has been surveying Detroit residents since 2016. According to the most recent survey findings, Black and Latino Detroiters were more than twice as likely as white Detroiters to be wary of the effectiveness of the vaccine.

The Centers for Disease Control & Prevention has reported the vaccines are safe, nonexperimental and effective. However, there are minor side effects to all three branded vaccines, including tiredness, chills, nausea and fever. The CDC says these side effects are more likely after the second dose of the vaccine, are only temporary, and should go away after a few days. The Johnson & Johnson vaccine does not require a second dose. Overall, the institution has found the vaccines to be the most effective way to prevent the spread of coronavirus, helping residents protect themselves and others in their communities.


Of those not vaccinated, 22.5 percent said they fear side effects, and 18% said they don’t believe the vaccine to be effective.

The report found only 10% of unvaccinated Detroiters have found news media to be a trusted source of information on the coronavirus vaccine.

Detroit was applauded early on for quickly providing vaccines to thousands of people as soon as vaccines were made available. The City has administered 358,741 doses as of Monday. Of the Detroit residents that were vaccinated by the City, 83.6 percent were Black, 12.5 were white, and 4.6 identified as another race.

However, it’s unclear how many of those vaccines were given to Detroit residents compared to people who work in Detroit or have some other connection to the city. Almost 80,000 people who have received a vaccine through the City of Detroit were over the age of 50. The second largest group of vaccinated people are grocery food workers and food handlers.

According to City data, just under 40 percent of Detroiters are vaccinated, compared to 56 percent of Macomb County residents, and almost 68% of Oakland County residents. Less than 60% of Michiganders across the state have received the vaccine.

An earlier iteration of the U-M data found that Black and Latino Detroiters were least likely to get vaccinated due to lack of trust, ongoing health disparities, and a lack of access to reliable information. State and local governments pushed public engagement initiatives as the vaccine was released to help Detroiters understand the importance of the vaccine amid a global pandemic.

However, University of Michigan researchers say 1 in 3 of the respondents who originally said they were unlikely to get vaccinated have received at least one dose of the vaccine.

Government entities have created incentives for residents who get vaccinated. Incentives include a $5 million lottery through $50,000 daily winnings and four-year college scholarships. In Detroit, residents who bring a friend or neighbor to a vaccine appointment will receive $50 per shot for each appointment. Some retailers have joined the vaccine incentive program and are offering free doughnuts, gift cards and discounts on purchases to reward vaccinated residents.

Incentives aren’t the only impetus to get Detroiters vaccinated and prevent the spread of coronavirus.

The City of Detroit offered free rides to vaccination sites when doses first became available. By late June the City announced residents could register for at-home vaccination appointments. 

To schedule an appointment for a vaccine, call the City of Detroit at 313-230-0505. 

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