Narrative Overview and Discussion
Back in February, I devoted a lot of my time to helping people get vaccine appointments, but that phase has now passed. I’ve taken some time over the past few days to check on the vaccination status of my constituents.
I did an email survey from May 10 through 12 that reached roughly 4000 people in my district – Back Bay, Fenway, Allston, Brighton, Watertown, and Belmont. Among the first 2042 who responded, 98% reported having had at least one vaccination dose.
That sounded high, so I sent a follow up email pleading, “I’d be grateful if you could take the survey even if you have not been vaccinated.” Another 559 responded, but the vaccination rate was almost the same among them.
In the responding sample, all age groups and all zip codes had vaccination rates over 96%. People on my email list include a wide range of political views, but all are engaged and pay attention to the news. Among people fitting that description, it appears that almost all have been able to get vaccinated.
I did a reality check against the state’s zip code vaccination report which comes out weekly. In the zip codes that I represent, the share of people who have gone through the vaccination process and are showing up in the state’s vaccination counts is very high – over three fourths in all age groups except those under 19. In the Fenway area, the vaccination rate is reduced by large populations of students under 19.
I asked people about their experience in scheduling an appointment. As I expected based on the phone calls and emails I was getting, many had a bad experience in February and March. Among those who scheduled in that period, one quarter said their experience was a ”nightmare.” In February and March, only 44% reported a smooth scheduling experience. The “nightmare” number was down to 11% in April. By May, 71% said their experience was “smooth” and 19% reported a “minor hassle,” while 10% continued to experience a “nightmare.”
Virtually everyone, 99% regardless of when they scheduled their appointment, reported a satisfactory experience at the vaccination sites – “safe and fast.”
After vaccination, 80% said that they felt safer, but were still following health care guidance: “I feel much safer and I am getting out more, but I am still wearing a mask and following all recommended procedures.” Much smaller groups erred towards too cautious or too care-free: 5.6% said that they do not feel much safer and 3.7 % said that they were fully going back to normal.
Overall, I was comforted to confirm that in my district, after a rough start, the vaccination system has been reaching people. That confirmation is consistent with the state’s good rankings as compared to other states on various metrics.
There are some less affluent and less engaged areas of the state where the numbers are weaker. Both the Governor and the legislature are giving those areas a lot of attention with outreach to build awareness and make vaccination as convenient as possible.
The other group I am concerned about are those who have lost faith in the health care system and do not trust the advice to get vaccinated. I believe that is a very small group in my district. It was 1.2% of those who responded to my survey and based on the state’s high reported vaccination rates, it cannot be much larger than that in my district. But I do feel concerned for the vaccine hesitant.
I had a call with a group of vaccine hesitant people who had reached out to me and I got a feel for their wounded mistrust of the health care system. Most had had a bad experience that they attributed to health care errors and most preferred alternative medicine. I couldn’t win their trust back on the call and it was disappointing.
But I do take comfort that almost everyone I can reach is already benefiting from the success that our creative pharmaceutical industry has had in swiftly creating several vaccines that do save lives. We can be hopeful that the industry will be able to keep pace with emerging variants. From a public sector standpoint, the main challenge is to reach the communities where vaccination rates are still low.
Survey Methods and Limitations
We sent brief emails inviting people to complete a short survey. The messages went out in three parts:
- Using Mailchimp, we sent an email at 3:30PM on May 10 to approximately 3600 residents of my senate district — Back Bay, Fenway, Allston, Brighton, Watertown, and Belmont — and an additional approximately 500 people outside my district who also subscribe to email list. We closed that initial survey page after 24 hours.
- When I saw how high the initial reported vaccination rates were, I was afraid my sample might not be fully representative, so I decided to send a second email asking people to respond, even if they were not vaccinated. There was no tracking of who actually completed the survey form. However, our email tool, Mailchimp tracks when recipients open or click on emails. We sent a follow-up email at 7:30AM on May 12 to approximately 2000 people who did not show as having clicked on the original email. We closed that second survey page on May 13 at 11:50AM.
- In addition, the survey invitation was sent to 4 community news lists in my district on May 10 at 3:30PM. That survey page remained open for 24 hours. We do not know the number of people receiving or interacting with those messages.
The three groups of messages each brought people to a separate URL that fed the same form. As a result, we were able to track which of the three mailing groups each form response came from (but not specifically who responded).
The recipients had all affirmatively subscribed to my email list for office news (no politics) or to a community news list. So, the universe of respondents was self-selected and not random. Recipients may have forwarded the survey to others. Responses on other issues indicate that the people on my email list are politically diverse, although generally people who feel comfortable with my political views are likely over-represented. Certainly, people who are engaged and follow the news are over-represented on the list.
The survey was written so that if a person indicated that they did not vaccinated they were asked why. If a person indicated that they had been vaccinated they were asked about their experience.
|Message Group||Unique Deliveries||Form Link Clicks||Form Responses |
(% of deliveries)
|Initial main Mailchimp mailing to all subscribers||4143||2341||2042 (49%)|
|Follow up Mailchimp mailing to non-clickers||2120||636||559 (26%)|
|Mailing to community lists||Unknown||Unknown||142(?)|
Question 1: Have you received one or more doses of vaccine for COVID-19?
As the cross tabs below indicate, in this sample of respondents, vaccination was near universal and did not depend much on where people lived or their age group (except for those below 16). However, the sample does skew older, so young un-vaccinated people are underrepresented.
|16 to 45||2||12||728||98.1%|
|46 to 65||2||25||918||97.1%|
Reality Check: Comparison of survey responses to vaccine reporting system results.
The state publishes weekly reports of vaccination by age and zip code. Except for in the decennial census, the census bureau estimates population by zip code only on an rough basis and with a delay so there is no fully accurate way to get vaccination rates by zip code. The table below presents that imprecise data; it includes some obviously wrong numbers for a couple of zip codes, but that reflects the roughness of the population data. The data generally show very high vaccination rates in older age groups across all zip codes, consistent with the survey results. The results do not vary much across zip codes when age mix is factored out. The youngest zip codes are 02115 and 02215 (see the census data).
Individuals with at least one dose — rates by zip code and age.
|0-19 Years||20-59 Years||60-64 Years||65 to 74 years||75+ Years||All Ages|
See computations in this spreadsheet.
Question for those not vaccinated: If you have not received a COVID-19 vaccine, why not?
Among the very small group who had not been vaccinated, vaccine hesitancy was the most common reason — not difficulty in accessing vaccine.
|Reason for Non Vaccination||# not vaccinated||% of not vaccinated||% of full sample|
|Concerned about vaccine and may not get vaccinated.||32||67%||1.2%|
|Had difficulty arranging an appointment.||7||15%||0.3%|
|Not a priority.||8||17%||0.3%|
Question 2: Where did you receive your first dose?
This sample was somewhat more reliant on the mass vaccination sites than the state as whole, but not too different. Compare the chart below to the Weekly COVID-19 Dashboard for May 13 at page 13.
|Mass Vaccination Site||709||26%|
|Community Health Center||247||9%|
|Local Health Clinic||118||4%|
|Total Responding to Question||2683||100%|
Questions 3 and 4: When did you schedule your first appointment? Did you have difficulty scheduling an appointment?
Question 3 requested the date that the appointment was scheduled, as opposed to the date of the appointment itself. February was the month when the most people had trouble with scheduling as eligibility for vaccination opened up wider. More recently, supply has caught up with demand and scheduling appointments has been easier.
|When Scheduled||# Scheduled||Smooth||Minor Hassle||Nightmare|
Question 5: How was the experience where you got vaccinated??
People had good experiences generally with the actual vaccination experience, regardless of when they got vaccinated.
|When Scheduled||Scheduled||Safe and Fast — Satisfactory||Unsatisfactory for any reason||% Satisfactory|
Question 6: What best describes your lifestyle after being vaccinated?
Most people seem to be heeding the balanced guidance offered by public health authorities.
|I feel free and am going back to normal.||100||3.7%|
|I feel much safer and I am getting out more, but I am still wearing a mask and following all recommended procedures.||2156||80.4%|
|I do not feel much safer and I am still taking all precautions.||150||5.6%|
|I was never very worried.||42||1.6%|
|I am only partially vaccinated.||203||7.6%|
|None of the above||30||1.1%|
|Total Responding to Question||2681||100.0%|