Side effects, mistrust top reasons NC residents are hesitant about COVID-19 vaccine

FAYETTEVILLE, N.C. (WTVD) -- Nearly six months since the COVID-19 vaccines became available in North Carolina fewer than half of eligible adults have received a dose.

Mistrust in the vaccines, concern about the side effects and disbelief are the top three reasons North Carolinas are hesitant about getting vaccinated, according to May survey data from the U.S. Census Bureau.

As health officials work to overcome these concerns, some North Carolina counties face a greater challenge.

The CDC estimated vaccine hesitancy rates were highest in the Sandhills last month. Now those same counties are reporting some of the lowest vaccination rates.

Onslow, Hoke and Cumberland counties have the lowest percent of their population vaccinated, according to data from the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services (NCDHHS).

In Cumberland County, slightly more than 17.8% of the population is fully vaccinated; about half of North Carolina's overall rate.

Cumberland County health director Jennifer Green said part of the reason their vaccination rate is so low is because of missing data.

"The data from Fort Bragg, and the VA, are not reflected in that map, and Fort Bragg, of course, represents a large percentage of our population so anybody that was vaccinated on the installation or by the installation or by the VA is not reflected on that map so we think that estimate is an undercount of how many individuals have been vaccinated," Green explained.

ABC11 did request this data and Green said the state is also trying to obtain the data from the federal government.

Green also said the number of colleges and universities in the area has an effect.

"We have three institutions of higher learning, and so if you're counted as a resident in our denominator, and when you got your vaccination you put your home address then that vaccination is going to count in the county where you live," she said.

The county is seeing some of the largest hesitancy among adults 18-24, according to Green.

"We're still behind the curve," said the Rev. E Kenneth Wells, the pastor at Locks Creek AME Zion Church in Fayetteville. "That that means we got a long ways to go."

Part of the county's solution to continue to increase its vaccination rate is by partnering with faith organizations such as Locks Creek AME Zion Church.

Wells said he continues to hear from many of his members who remain uncertain about the vaccine.

"Because of the experimental nature of our history and our pasts. Many are just hesitant," Wells said. "I hear more people just saying I'm waiting it out, I'm waiting to see. I'm going to see how things turn out."

Wells' church is hosting a COVID-19 vaccination clinic on May 26, and he hopes the location and continual conversation around the vaccine help to convince more people to get vaccinated.

"Oftentimes what helps them change their mind is what they see happening around them," Wells said. "The more they hear of colleagues, the more than hear of pew mates and those who they associate with the vaccine, and they are OK, then that gives them the impetus to want to do the same thing, and protect themselves."

For information about how to be vaccinated in Cumberland County visit: https://www.co.cumberland.nc.us/departments/public-health-group/public-health/covid-19-vaccine
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