A focus group of Trump voters hesitant to get the COVID-19 vaccine says the federal government and pharmaceutical companies should be more transparent, reports The Washington Post.
Frank Luntz, a longtime GOP pollster, hosted the virtual focus group via Zoom with 19 pro-Trump supporters who had not yet received the vaccine. The participants were pitched on the vaccine by Republican lawmakers, former CDC director Tom Frieden, and shown ads featuring former presidents touting it.
Only their first names and the state they are from were disclosed.
All participants believed the novel coronavirus was real — some contracted it themselves or had critically ill friends and family members — but opposed receiving the vaccine when initially asked.
"We want to be educated, not indoctrinated," said a man identified as Adam from New York, who praised the vaccines as a "miracle, albeit suspicious."
Sue, a woman from Iowa, said she feared political "manipulation" of the vaccines, even though she had been a pharmacist for Merck, a drug company that discontinued development of a COVID vaccine in late January.
"I know their vaccines are good products, I trust them," Sue added. "What I don’t trust is the government telling me what I need to do when they haven’t led us down the right road."
David, a man from Texas, said "political stunts" like pharmaceutical companies waiting until Trump lost the election to announce promising vaccine results "leave doubt in our minds."
A presentation of facts from former CDC director Frieden and former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie changed some minds.
"The single fact that swayed me the most was Dr. Frieden’s comment … the long-term impacts of COVID could be, [or] are worse than the impacts of the vaccine," said a man identified as Peter from Missouri who told Luntz that he went from "80%" opposed to the shot to "probably 75%" in favor after the session.
"His first points were, it’s been 20 years of research [to develop the vaccine]. It’s not just out of the blue," said Chad from Minnesota, who also praised Frieden for admitting that long-term risks of the vaccines are not yet known. "He’s just honest with us and telling us, nothing is 100% here, people."
A public service announcement featuring former presidents Barack Obama, George W. Bush, Bill Clinton and Jimmy Carter was not taken well.
One attendee called the ad "propaganda." Another said the former presidents were "bad actors."
The group did agree on one bad actor: Dr. Anthony Fauci.
One person called him a liar. Another said he was a flip-flopper.
By the end of the session all 19 participants said they were more likely to get vaccinated.
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