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UND coronavirus survey: Unvaccinated North Dakotans not likely to get the vax

The survey found that 80% of unvaccinated respondents are extremely hesitant to get the shots. When asked what would change their minds, people replied with “Nothing at this time.”

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GRAND FORKS — A UND vaccine hesitancy survey shows the majority of unvaccinated North Dakotans don’t want to receive the coronavirus vaccine.

In December, UND’s Institute of Policy and Business Analytics conducted a survey to gauge respondents’ hesitancy to receive a vaccine for the coronavirus. The survey found that 80% of unvaccinated respondents are extremely hesitant to get the shots. When asked what would change their minds, people replied with “Nothing at this time.”

“I wasn't surprised at the factors that were linked to hesitancy. What I was surprised at was the degree of hesitancy,” said Jason Jensen, professor of political science and public administration at UND, and executive director of the Institute of Policy and Business Analytics. “I was kind of expecting various scenarios where people would say ‘yeah, I would probably get it,’ only to have 80% say there's essentially nothing that would make them get it.”

Where is the outrage when college coaches see their multi-million dollar salaries subsidized by student loans? Where is the anger when billionaire professional sports team owners reach into taxpayers' wallets to subsidize a new stadium they could afford to build on their own?

The December survey is a follow up to a previous survey conducted by the Institute of Policy and Business Analytics in the fall of 2020 , which gauged residents’ attitudes toward the pandemic. More than 1,600 people representing every region of the state responded to the original survey, with 300 saying they were willing to take part in the follow up.

Of those, only 51 people responded to the vaccine hesitancy survey. Seventy percent of those respondents said they were vaccinated, with the remainder saying they were not, and would not get the shots.


Despite the low number of responses, Jensen said he is satisfied that the results are representative of the original sample of people. A demographic analysis was carried out to make sure each region of the state was represented, along with a proportional number of responses from men and women from those areas. He attributed the low response rate to “survey fatigue” and various difficulties in getting people to respond to the poll.

“We decided we’re pretty confident and it’s worth reporting,” said Jensen of the most recent survey results.

Reasons for avoiding the shot

The follow-up survey posed different scenarios to people on whether they would consider getting vaccinated. Those scenarios included individual health, the health of family members and work requirements, among others.

Respondents cited a number of factors for not receiving the vaccination, from political and personal beliefs to already having recovered from the illness. Other self-reported reasons from vaccine-hesitant people include:

  • “Apprehensive about it.”
  • “I don’t want to have it because it’s not mandatory.”
  • “Not a guinea pig for (the) government. Don't follow the pack to a slaughter.”
  • “Not enough research in such a short amount of time.”
  • “There are a number of people having a bad reaction/life changing effect from the COVID-19 vaccine that isn't widely reported by the mainstream media. Another reason is so many people have gotten quite sick even with the shot that is also not being reported.”

Negative sentiments

Largely citing personal choice, unvaccinated survey takers did not report negative views of people who received the vaccine. The reverse was not the case, however.

While some vaccinated people reported not being bothered by people refusing to get the shots, others tended to look upon unvaccinated people unfavorably for a variety of reasons. Some respondents called unvaccinated people “selfish” or “willfully ignorant,” while others lamented vaccines becoming politicized. Reasons for feeling negative sentiments include:

  • “It disappoints me that medical advice has been subverted by politics.”
  • “Makes me sad that they don’t want to protect themselves but also for others they come in contact with.”
  • “I feel they hurt the rest of us by clogging up our health care system.”
  • “I believe we will pay a price for their lack of concern for themselves and others.”

Some wound up getting the shots: “I wanted my freedom back!”

The follow-up survey found that some people who reported being extremely vaccine hesitant in the original survey ended up getting the shots. Reasons ranged from not wanting to contract COVID-19 to wanting to travel, and include:

  • “I wanted my freedom back! I felt if I was vaccinated I could go more places and I didn't want to get sick. And I didn't want to infect someone else not knowingly.”
  • “I was thinking about the clients I was serving and my family.”
  • “I work in a school.”

Herd immunity

Jensen said the results of the survey may mean that vaccination alone won’t bring the state to the threshold of herd immunity. Public health experts put that threshold at about 60% of a given “herd,” or population of an area. At present, 54.5% of North Dakota residents are fully vaccinated, according to the Mayo Clinic’s vaccine tracker website. Minnesota sits at 68.5%, South Dakota is at 60.2% and Montana is at 56.2%. Grand Forks county is at 56.7%, according to the state’s vaccination dashboard.


“It seems like if we're going to get to any sort of herd immunity, it's going to be some combination of vaccines and people getting and surviving COVID, and building up immunity that way,” Jensen said.

Adam Kurtz is the community editor for the Grand Forks Herald. He covers higher education and other topics in Grand Forks County and the city.

Kurtz joined the Herald in July 2019. He covered business and county government topics before covering higher education and some military topics.

Tips and story ideas are welcome. Get in touch with him at akurtz@gfherald.com, or DM at @ByAdamKurtz.

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