New survey finds white unvaccinated Minnesotans strongly against COVID-19 shots

A woman waits for her vaccine.
A woman awaits her second COVID-19 vaccination shot Feb. 25 at the Cook County Community Center in Grand Marais, Minn. A new survey by the APM Research Lab shows that there’s hesitation to get vaccinated among all unvaccinated Minnesotans.
Derek Montgomery for MPR News

At least 70 percent of white Minnesotans have gotten at least one COVID-19 shot, but among those who remain unvaccinated, 51 percent say they definitely won’t be getting one. 

Those are key findings in a new survey from the APM Research Lab, which is owned by MPR News’ parent company American Public Media.

The Diverse Communities Study surveyed more than 1,500 people across the state online and over the phone, and in multiple languages between April 26 and June 14. 

It found that the pandemic has affected Minnesotans widely, from mental well-being and personal financial situations, to willingness to be vaccinated.  

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Unsurprisingly, impacts of the pandemic have been felt disproportionately in BIPOC communities. But among unvaccinated respondents in these groups, there appears to be more openness to getting vaccines than among unvaccinated white residents.

Overall, the survey found that 70 percent of Minnesota adults have been vaccinated. 

That includes Eugene Dix, 65, who lives in Brooklyn Park, Minn., and identifies as African American. 

He said that he didn’t hesitate to get his vaccines when he learned in early 2021 that there were extra doses at a local vaccination site.

“I jumped in my car and threw the dog in the backseat and we shot over there,” he said. Dix has underlying health conditions that put him at higher risk of severe illness or death from COVID-19 which motivated him to get vaccinated. 

High vaccination rates, but some still waiting

Overall, Minnesota’s Asian community has the highest rates of vaccination at 79 percent.

But at the same time, among unvaccinated Asian Minnesotans, about 47 percent say they're waiting to get shots. That number goes up to 55 percent if you look only at Hmong Minnesotans, a group that has been disproportionately impacted by the worst of COVID.

Survey participant Mee Moua said she and her partner got shots early on to protect their kids who are too young for shots and their parents who are at higher risk.

Moua, 36, of St. Paul, said not everyone in her Hmong community is convinced. 

"Some of them are just still iffy about the side effects and even if it's really effective because they say it hasn't been proven,” she said. “A lot of people are afraid that if they get it, I might still get sick. They don't want to be forced to be vaccinated. They want to see results first, that it's proven, that it works."

Moua says when she hears that, she tells people that the vaccines have been proven to prevent serious illness and death from COVID. 

She thinks that when the FDA fully approves the vaccines, more people in her community will come around. 

Hesitant versus opposed

Far and away, unvaccinated white people in Minnesota are the most intractable when it comes to vaccines. More than half said they definitely will not get a vaccine, according to the survey.

Meanwhile, unvaccinated people of color are more likely to say they're just waiting on vaccination, and aren't as strongly opposed to it. 

Among white Minnesotans, 26 percent say they’re waiting on shots. 

Being young and healthy was a big reason Trevor Haugh, 36, didn’t rush to get vaccinated. 

“The way I see it is the amount of people I'm exposed to on a daily basis, if I was going to get this thing, it would have happened already anyways,” Haugh said. 

But Haugh, who is getting his second shot soon, said he eventually got vaccinated because his job requires him to be around lots of people, and being vaccinated puts others at ease. 

“I got mine for the sake of I'm in homes every single day, and if it makes people feel more comfortable and if it helps me not wear a mask."