More than three-quarters of Bexar County residents surveyed in the latest Bexar Facts/KSAT/San Antonio Report poll say they are either already vaccinated or likely to get vaccinated against COVID-19. At the same time, people expressing hesitancy about the vaccines fell sharply from a previous poll taken last fall.

As Texas continues to roll out vaccine doses, the latest poll released Tuesday included a question asking voters if they would get inoculated. Only 16% of respondents said they are unlikely to get the coronavirus vaccine, down from the September 2020 poll, in which 31% said they were unlikely to be vaccinated. Vaccines first became available to the public locally in January.

“I think it’s great,” said Dr. Erika Gonzalez, president and CEO of the South Texas Allergy & Asthma Medical Professionals, of the poll’s findings. “I think the reason more people feel encouraged about taking the vaccine is they now know people who’ve taken the vaccine and did OK.” 

The survey of 618 registered voters in Bexar County was conducted March 23-29. While 81% said they have received a vaccine or are likely to receive it, only 63% of September’s respondents said they were likely to get a vaccine when it became available.   

“They maybe didn’t want to be in the first wave of people, but now that they are seeing more people get vaccinated and it not causing problems,” said Gonzalez, whose practice has provided coronavirus vaccines. “I think that they’re more likely to be encouraged to do it so I think it’s a great sign.”

In September, Americans did not have a real viable vaccine product to judge yet, said Professor H. Paul LeBlanc, chair of the University of Texas at San Antonio’s department of communication. 

Individuals only had promises to make their judgments by, and those promises were overwhelmingly presented within the context of a U.S. presidential election, LeBlanc said. At issue more than anything else was the believability of the messaging and the trustworthiness of the messenger, he added. 

“When issues of importance are considered by individuals, such as the important issue of health, the trustworthiness of the information and the sender of the information plays a significant role in whether listeners believe the information,” he said. 

While 54% of poll respondents said they’ve already been vaccinated, data from the Texas Department of Health and Human Services shows 21% of Bexar County residents 16 and older are fully vaccinated against COVID-19 and 35% have received at least one shot of the two-dose Moderna or Pfizer vaccines. 

Exactly who was surveyed may account for the difference in what poll results indicate versus what state data shows, said Cherise Rohr-Allegrini, CEO of San Antonio AIDS Foundation and former research director of the immunization partnership. Voters do not equal the general population, she said.

The poll shows those willing to get vaccinated and those unwilling split across party lines. Respondents who described themselves as liberal or Democrat were more likely to be already vaccinated or to be willing to get vaccinated than respondents identifying as conservative or Republican.

“Given the politics of the pandemic response, it is no surprise that this anti-vaccine rhetoric would carry over into COVID vaccine efforts,” said Rohr-Allegrini.

Of the respondents who said they were unlikely to get the COVID-19 vaccination, 31% said it was because they felt there has not enough research yet or the vaccine is not yet well proven. An additional 20% said they were concerned about long-term health effects or felt the vaccine is not safe.

Gonzalez and Rohr-Allegrini both said they’ve spoken with many Texans who had various reasons for not wanting to get the vaccine.

Gonzalez said a common concern she heard was people not trusting the speed in which the vaccine was created.

“Although these vaccines came on to market quickly, there were no shortcuts taken,” Gonzalez said. “It still went through all the different phases that any medication going out on the market goes through, it just did it at a faster rate.”

Dr. Erika Gonzalez is a member of the San Antonio Report board of directors.

Lindsey Carnett

Lindsey Carnett is the general assignment reporter for the San Antonio Report.