Survey shows causes of low vaccination rates in Columbia County
A recent survey of Columbia County residents found locals are more likely to view vaccination as a personal choice than a responsibility.
DHM Research surveyed 300 Columbia County residents in January, finding that 52% of residents viewed vaccination as a personal choice.
Republicans, younger adults and people with a high school education or less were more likely to fall into the personal choice category.
Columbia County's COVID-19 vaccination rate is far below the statewide average. Across Oregon, 89.3% of adults have received at least one dose of a vaccine, compared to just 67.3% in Columbia County.
Younger residents, registered Republicans and unemployed people are the least likely to be vaccinated.
Among people who were not vaccinated against COVID-19 as of January, the main reasons fell into two categories: concerns about potential dangers from receiving the vaccine, or feelings that there wasn't enough need or benefit from vaccination.
Middle-income households were less likely to have received a booster shot than high or low-income households.
The survey was conducted to inform county messaging around COVID-19 vaccination.
Eight in 10 unvaccinated respondents said they were not likely to get vaccinated. That leaves two in 10 who are at least open to the idea of getting the vaccine.
Overall, respondents said they trusted family and friends as sources for health-related information more than most other sources, though DHM Research president Michelle Neiss said the survey would likely have found higher trust in primary care doctors, if that had been asked. More than 70% of respondents said they had "some trust" or "a lot of trust" in friends or family.
But officials were pleased with the results for the county public health department: 61% of respondents said they had "some trust" or "a lot of trust" in health-related information from the department.
Columbia Economic Team helped facilitate the survey project to guide public health messaging. Executive director Paul Vogel said the survey showed that encouraging — rather than demanding or pressuring — people to get vaccinated may be the most effective messaging. The end of the mask mandate could be an opportunity to encourage unvaccinated or unboosted residents to consider getting the shot now.
"If we do it in that kind of voice, of encouraging and speaking principally to those who are inclined to the vaccine, those that are within those guardrails, we think a communication campaign could be effective," Vogel said.
"This, to me, is not necessarily about COVID and the COVID vaccine," Columbia County Commissioner Margaret Magruder said at a March 2 meeting after hearing from Neiss and Vogel. "This is about positioning public health in Columbia County for the future, and as public health as being the resource that people have available and trust for their healthcare needs, advice, consultation."
Magruder added, "COVID is going to continue, and the need for vaccines of any sort is going to continue. But I see this as an opportunity, since we now have a very robust public health department in Columbia County."
Michael Paul, Columbia County's public health director, echoed Magruder's sentiment.
"Moving forward, we've got a lot of other public health issues that we're working on as well. And so it's really nice to see that people will look to us — and I also feel like that's a testament to the work our staff has done, as well as our public information officer," Paul said.
You count on us to stay informed and we depend on you to fund our efforts. Quality local journalism takes time and money. Please support us to protect the future of community journalism.