NJ residents like COVID safety

New Jersey residents are prepared to wait as long as necessary to fully reopen the state, rather than rush to a return to normalcy as the country continues to struggle with the coronavirus in the absence of a vaccine or treatment.

Most favor mandatory mask wearing and, while fewer are convinced than Americans nationwide, a significant majority say they are confident that a vaccine, when it emerges, will have been adequately tested for safety and efficacy.

These findings are from the latest statewide survey conducted on behalf of the Fairleigh Dickinson University School of Pharmacy and Health Sciences by the FDU Poll. The phone survey was fielded from June 18 through June 30, 2020 among a random sample of 809 New Jersey adults.

Returning to normal

Two thirds of New Jerseyans favor keeping restrictions in place until a vaccine or treatment is available. Significantly fewer (29%) want a return to normal despite the risks, with Republicans the sole demographic where a majority (53%) support a return to normal life over restrictions.

Sizable majorities of Democrats, women and men, all age groups, Whites and non-Whites, and individuals from across the income and educational spectrum all support continued restrictions.

“There’s scant evidence in New Jersey that the public is looking for a speedy return to normal as long as a treatment or a vaccine remain out of reach. It looks like the heavy toll the virus took early on in the pandemic has left state residents leery of letting down their guard,” said Krista Jenkins, director of the FDU poll and a professor of politics and government at FDU.

Support for mandatory mask wearing is also uniformly embraced. Overall, three-quarters (77%) believe mask wearing in public places should be mandatory, while 20 percent think masks should be considered optional and a reflection of one’s personal freedom.

Again, Republicans were least supportive of this measure by a wide margin.

However, even within this group, a solid majority (60%) favor mandatory mask wearing, while 37 percent believe masks should be optional.

“Making masks mandatory continues to be a divisive issue among Democrats and Republicans. Results from the state of New Jersey are similar to results from a recent FDU nationwide survey. More Republicans than Democrats are against making masks mandatory and believe it should be a person’s personal choice to wear one. Despite this division, the vast majority of New Jerseyans accept the evidence that masks are effective for protecting against the virus and that it’s a good thing to require them.” Says Elif Özdener-Poyraz, assistant professor of pharmacy practice at Fairleigh Dickinson University, School of Pharmacy & Health Sciences.

Vaccines and medical concerns

The ability to return to normal will largely depend on the availability of a COVID-19 vaccine.

However, questions remain regarding whether Americans will trust the vaccine’s safety and efficacy, and therefore take the inoculation when it becomes available. New Jersey adults are, for the most part, confident that a hypothetical vaccine will be safe and effective, but are less convinced than the rest of the country.

While a recent nationwide FDU poll found that almost three-quarters of Americans (72%) are confident to some degree in a vaccine, only two-thirds of Garden Staters agreed; 19 percent are very confident, and 47 percent are somewhat confident.

Over a quarter (28%) of N.J. adults are not at all confident that the vaccine will be ready for widespread use.   

While most people understand that a vaccine is the surest way to get New Jersey, and the country, back up and running, and a majority will likely or definitely get vaccinated (66%), many people in the state are still resistant.

Almost one-third (30%) of New Jerseyans say they probably or definitely will not get the vaccine when available.

“The speed with which vaccines are being developed may be contributing to the public’s weariness to accept a coronavirus vaccine when it becomes available. Although a vaccine is likely months if not longer away from being approved, public health campaigns targeting vaccine acceptance need to be developed now,” says Julie Kalabalik-Hoganson, Director and Associate Professor of Pharmacy Practice at Fairleigh Dickinson University School of Pharmacy and Health Sciences.

As health experts continue to warn about a likely resurgence of the virus when the cooler months of fall and winter settle in, Garden State residents are also being encouraged to get the flu vaccine in order to keep non-COVID illnesses to a minimum.

A majority of New Jersey adults are already poised to do this, as 58 percent already are regular flu vaccine recipients. Additionally, 61% say that because of the coronavirus pandemic, they are even more likely than usual to get a flu vaccine this year.

The full impact the pandemic will have on the long-term health of Americans is not yet known; but many are worried about the effects. Two-thirds say they are very or somewhat concerned that their or someone they love’s health will suffer because of not getting or delaying medical treatment for non-COVID-19 related health conditions out of fear of contracting the disease.

Concern in the Garden State is higher than what the FDU Poll has found nationally, as 58 percent of adults across the United States say they are very or somewhat concerned about untreated medical conditions.

In New Jersey, concern is especially high among people of color, as almost half (47%) of non-White respondents say they are very concerned, as compared with a third of White respondents (32%).

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