RBI Strategies and Research Conducted Polling of 501 Unvaccinated Western Slope and SW Colorado Residents on Behalf of SJBPH – Research Funded by Federal HRSA Grant

(November 17, 2021): San Juan Basin Public Health (SJBPH) is pleased to share the results of polling and focus groups conducted by RBI Strategies and Research to gather information from unvaccinated residents living in Southwest Colorado and across the Western Slope. The research project was fully funded by a grant awarded to SJBPH by the federal Human Resources and Services Administration (HRSA). Other SJBPH activities currently funded by the grant include extensive community outreach and education to increase vaccine uptake in La Plata and Archuleta counties.

Local public health departments in rural areas have operated with a scarcity of research gathered directly from their communities throughout the pandemic. Rural communities also face unique vaccine equity issues and barriers related to technology, access to information, transportation, language barriers, hesitancy, and other factors. Despite these challenges, vaccination rates have increased over the course of 2021, although the research indicates a challenging road lies ahead. Currently, about 7 in 10 Coloradans have received at least one dose of COVID-19 vaccine. While local public health departments and the State continue what has become a marathon effort toward reaching and educating individuals who remain unvaccinated, SJBPH supports layered precautions to reduce transmission during the current surge in COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations. These approaches include widespread testing, 100% contact tracing, vaccination, monoclonal antibody treatments, a statewide mask order, and other proven strategies.

Between October 19th and 21st, RBI Strategies and Research gathered surveys from 501 unvaccinated residents across the Western Slope and Southwest Colorado generating a poll with a 4.4% margin of error. The goal of the project was to learn more about the likelihood of uptake among unvaccinated residents, their reasons for not receiving COVID-19 vaccination, and the top performing messages for educating and increasing vaccine uptake in this population. A summary of the findings is available here. Crosstabs are available upon request.

Among the unvaccinated sample, 65% of respondents indicated they would “definitely not” receive the COVID-19 vaccine in the future, leaving 35% of the sample undecided at the time of the poll. Among the more persuadable group, several approaches stood out for their strong potential to increase vaccine uptake:

  • Using messages that inform the unvaccinated about how the COVID-19 vaccines were developed and approved so quickly
  • Providing fact-based information about the potential long-term negative health impacts of contracting COVID-19, in contrast with no documented long-term side effects of vaccination
  • Informing unvaccinated residents that even if they’ve had COVID-19 once, they can catch the virus again and that the vaccine provides immunity that reduces the likelihood of that outcome
  • The enactment of vaccine mandates for travel, work, and other activities as a means to increase vaccine uptake
  • Using messaging that highlights the lifesaving benefits of vaccination for protecting their vulnerable family members and friends
  • Personal doctors were identified as the most trusted messengers regarding COVID-19 vaccination, followed by other health care professionals and scientists

“We care deeply about the health and safety of Archuleta and La Plata counties and educating residents so they can make an informed decision to best protect their health and the health of their loved ones. We are fortunate to be able to share this research with our public health partners across the Western Slope and Southwest Colorado thanks to a grant from the federal government,” said Liane Jollon, Executive Director of SJBPH. “As we’re working to protect school aged children and provide access to boosters for adults, our work continues conducting outreach and education with individuals who remain unvaccinated, especially in underserved communities. This research helps inform that work and the path forward in our ongoing efforts to address vaccine hesitancy and protect families in our community. Our team is committed to educating all residents, with the understanding that it may take multiple conversations and more time to reach some deeply hesitant folks.”

Focus groups of unvaccinated Southwest Colorado and Western Slope residents were also conducted in September and October as part of the project. Findings from the sessions were in line with the poll, with three key message components showing the most promise in reaching unvaccinated individuals:

  • Fact-based explanations of vaccine function, development, and testing
  • Messaging focused on protecting loved ones, vulnerable people, and limiting the spread
  • Comparisons between the known risks of long-term harm from the virus itself and the lack of evidence of long-term harm from the vaccine

SJBPH emphasizes that the vaccine is convenient and widely available for all residents ages 5 and up. 5 to 17-year-olds are only eligible for the Pfizer vaccine, and the two-dose series takes at least five weeks from the first shot for individuals to complete the series and reach maximum immunity. There are numerous vaccine providers in La Plata and Archuleta counties, and SJBPH is offering clinics seven days per week in partnership with Jogan Health. All SJBPH and Jogan Health clinics can offer first, second, third, and booster doses for those who are eligible. The full schedule of vaccine clinics, pop-ups, and mobile clinics is available online with convenient dates and times available across both counties.

Although advance registration is preferred, walk-ins are also welcome at upcoming clinics. The vaccine is free, and no ID is required. Additional providers and information about the COVID-19 vaccine can be found on SJBPH’s website.

For COVID-19 data, testing locations, and more information about vaccines visit the SJBPH website.