Majority of Americans fear for their health due to delaying routine care as a result of corona-19

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One quarter say they will not go to a doctor’s office except for emergencies until a vaccine for covid-19 is available; yet, only one-in-five say they are very confident that a vaccine will have been adequately tested according to the most recent survey conducted by Fairleigh Dickinson University Poll.

"Telemedicine has been an invaluable alternative for seeing a healthcare provider during the pandemic," says Grace Earl, Clinical Associate Professor of Pharmacy Practice at Fairleigh Dickinson University, School of Pharmacy & Health Sciences.

Many Americans believe their overall health will suffer as they avoid medical treatment out of fears of getting COVID-19, and few are confident that a coronavirus vaccine, should it become available, will be adequately tested and safe for use. Additionally, more than one-in-four adults nationwide think hydroxychloroquine, the malaria drug touted by President Trump, is a safe and effective treatment for the coronavirus, despite multiple studies showing otherwise. These are some of the findings from a new national survey conducted on behalf of the Fairleigh Dickinson University School of Pharmacy and Health Sciences from Fairleigh Dickinson University by the FDU Poll.

According to the survey, a majority of those polled (54%) are very to somewhat concerned that their own or a loved one’s health is at risk due to delaying treatment for non-COVID-19-related medical problems because they fear doing so would put them at risk of catching the virus. In fact, more than a quarter (27%) say they will not go to a doctor’s office except for emergencies until a vaccine or treatment for COVID-19 is available.

While resistance to seeking out medical treatment will likely have a long-lasting impact on Americans’ health, telehealth as an alternative to in-person medical care has gained traction during the pandemic and is enabling patients to be seen virtually by health practitioners.

Telehealth Gets Good Marks

The survey found that 24 percent of those polled have seen a doctor or other health professional via online video conferencing since the pandemic began in March, with 72 percent saying their experience was the same or better than an in-person medical visit. Although the number of Americans who actually have used these technologies is still fairly limited, three-quarters (76%) of Americans say they would be comfortable having a telehealth appointment with their doctor if they were unable to see them face-to-face.

“Telemedicine has been an invaluable alternative for seeing a healthcare provider during the pandemic. It allows people to continue to seek medical treatment while protecting themselves from COVID-19 by limiting their exposure to other people,” explained Grace Earl, Clinical Associate Professor of Pharmacy Practice at Fairleigh Dickinson University, School of Pharmacy & Health Sciences. “However, this research does show that there are barriers to the use of these technologies, with more than a quarter of those who had a telehealth experience saying it was worse than an in-person appointment. While some people may never be happy with virtual care, making these technologies as easy-to-use and glitch-free as possible would help improve the experience for others.”

Among those who said they would not go online for an appointment (24%), a majority said they would avoid this option out of concerns they would get the treatment they need (56%). Another 32 percent cite difficulty in navigating the technology needed, and eleven percent say privacy concerns make telehealth not an option.

Americans were also asked about the degree of concern they may have for their own or a loved one’s health due to delays in medical treatment that might occur because of the pandemic. A full half (54%) of Americans say they are very or somewhat concerned that their own health, or that of a loved one, will suffer because of not getting or delaying medical treatment for a non-COVID-19 related health condition out of fear of contracting the disease. A full 26 percent say they are very concerned.

Vaccines Lack Confidence

Key to getting society back to normal is a vaccine for the virus. And, while there has been a huge push to get this accomplished quickly - the Trump administration even naming the effort “Operation Warp Speed” - Americans have mixed views of whether it will be done safely. When asked how much confidence they have that any vaccine that becomes available will have been adequately tested for effectiveness and deemed safe for use, most Americans are not totally convinced that this will happen. Only one-in-five (20%) say they are very confident, with 28% who say they are not at all confident, and around half (52%) who are somewhat confident.

As for whether Americans would get a vaccine if and when it becomes available, 29% say they definitely will. Another third (36%) probably will, with 35% saying they are unlikely or definitely will not get a coronavirus vaccine. Democrats (37%) more than Republicans (25%) are among the “definitely will,” while Republicans (26%) more than Democrats (5%) are among the “definitely will not.”

“The hesitation that Americans have, and their distrustful view of vaccine development may serve as an obstacle to vaccine acceptance in the future. A significant amount of education on the benefits and risks of the vaccine will need to be provided to the public,” explained Julie Kalabalik-Hoganson, Chair and Associate Professor of Pharmacy Practice, Fairleigh Dickinson University School of Pharmacy and Health Sciences.

Black Americans are particularly skeptical when it comes to their faith in vaccines. More than a third of blacks have no confidence in the deployment of a safe and effective vaccine, as compared to about a quarter of white Americans (26%) and Hispanic Americans (27%). They are also the most likely to say they will exercise restraint when it comes to getting the coronavirus vaccine, assuming it becomes available. Forty-three percent of blacks say they probably or definitely will not get the vaccine. This is significantly more than the number of whites (25%) and Hispanic Americans (35%) who express similar uncertainty.

“The gap that separates blacks from whites also extends to their concerns about their overall health. It’s important to note that black respondents are significantly more concerned than whites about their own or a loved one’s health due to disruptions in medical care. Almost half of all blacks surveyed say they’re very concerned, with less than half that number among whites. Almost a third of white Americans are not at all concerned that the pandemic will cause their health to suffer as compared with only 15 percent of Black Americans,” said Krista Jenkins, professor of politics and government and director of the poll.

In addition to the importance of a coronavirus vaccine is the yearly flu vaccine. Americans have been urged by medical leaders to get their flu vaccine to protect them from next year’s strain. Doing so will lessen the pressure on the healthcare system should another wave of coronavirus peak in the fall and beyond. The message seems to have been heard by many Americans, as almost two-thirds (62%) indicate they are likely to get the vaccine for the coming flu season. If true, this would be a significant increase over those who regularly get the flu vaccine (54%).

“With fears of a second wave of coronavirus in the fall, it is predicted there will be a peak in COVID-19 cases in December 2020. Managing the second wave on top of the flu season will be challenging and may place a substantial strain on the healthcare system. Flu vaccination and COVID-19 testing will play an important role in reducing hospitalizations and minimizing spread of illness,” explained Kalabalik-Hoganson.

(Mis)information

While there is a great deal of COVID-19 misinformation circulating, a majority of Americans are able to distinguish between what’s true and false. However, there remain large numbers of Americans who believe information that is untrue about the virus. Almost one-in-three (31%) believe taking Motrin or Advil will make COVID-19 worse, 28% say Hydroxychloroquine is safe and effective for treating the virus, and 18% believe blood pressure medications should be avoided if you have COVID-19.

And finally, Americans are uncertain when it comes to the numbers of infections and deaths attributed to the coronavirus. Only 16% believe coronavirus infections have been reported accurately, with slightly more (21%) who say the same about the number of coronavirus related deaths. Most believe the numbers either over- or under-state the infection and death rate in the United States. More people believe the number of infections and deaths are under-reported (57% and 41%, respectively), as compared to those who believe they are over-reported (27% and 38%).

The Trump Effect

Attitudes toward President Trump help to distinguish respondents across some of the questions related to what people know about the virus. For example, among those who approve of the job the president has done in managing the nation’s response to the virus, half believe incorrectly that hydroxychloroquine is a safe and effective way to treat COVID-19, as compared with 80% who correctly identify this as a false statement among those who disapprove of his leadership. And, in regard to attitudes toward the reasons behind contradictory information about the virus from the president, half of those who believe he allows science to guide his advice say incorrectly that hydroxychloroquine is safe. Among those who believe he bows to political pressure when dispensing advice, 78% correctly identify this as a false statement.

And how one evaluates the reported incidence of infections and death from the virus is also related to views of the President. Half of those who approve of his leadership believe the infections have been overreported, and 66% of the same group believe the number of deaths are overstated. Conversely, around three-fourths of those who disapprove of his leadership believe infections have been underreported (77%) and 62 percent of the same group believe coronavirus related deaths are underreported.

“You can’t hear hydroxychloroquine without thinking of the president, so perhaps it’s no surprise that among his supporters we find a greater chance that someone believes in the drug’s safety and efficacy” said Krista Jenkins, professor of politics and government and director of the poll. “He’s a powerful source of information to his supporters, even when there is clear evidence that refutes his messages.”

Methodology
The survey was conducted by The Fairleigh Dickinson University Poll on behalf of the FDU School of Pharmacy and Health Sciences. A random sample of 1003 was drawn of adults (18+) nationwide, including in Alaska and Hawaii, and live interviews were conducted in English and Spanish, upon request, on landlines and cell phones between May 20 through May 25, 2020. Persons without a telephone could not be included in the random selection process. Respondents within a household are selected by asking randomly for the youngest adult currently available. The interview was conducted in English and included 303 adults reached on a landline phone and 700 adults reached on a cell phone, all acquired through random digit dialing.

In this poll, the simple sampling error for 1003 adults is +/-3.6 percentage points (including the design effect) at a 95 percent confidence interval. Thus, if 50 percent of adults nationwide in this sample favor a particular position, we would be 95 percent sure that the true figure is between 46.4 and 53.6 percent (50 +/- 3.6) if all US adults had been interviewed, rather than just a sample.
The full analysis, along with the poll’s questions and tables and a detailed methodological statement, can be found on the FDU Poll website.

About Fairleigh Dickinson University
Devoted to the preparation of world citizens, Fairleigh Dickinson University offers over 100 undergraduate and graduate degree programs, including doctoral programs in pharmacy, nursing practice, clinical psychology and school psychology; and an AACSB-accredited business school. Degree programs are offered on two New Jersey campuses and at two international campuses: Wroxton College, in Oxfordshire in England, and the Vancouver Campus, in British Columbia, Canada. For more information, visit FDU.edu.

About FDU Poll
The FDU Poll is a university based survey research center that began in 2001. It has conducted over a hundred publicly released polls guided by a mission to provide high quality, scientifically sound, non-partisan measures of important issues facing New Jersey and the nation. To learn more visit us online

About FDU’s School of Pharmacy & Health Sciences
The Fairleigh Dickinson University School of Pharmacy & Health Sciences is one of only two degree-granting pharmacy schools in New Jersey, and is the first in the state to be associated with a private university. The School’s dynamic program of study integrates the very best practices in pharmacy education today. The school has also expanded its presence in the field of public health and health professions with the addition of health sciences programs such as Master of Public Health, Master of Social Work, Occupational Therapy and Physician Assistant.

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Krista Jenkins

Julie Kalabalik-Hoganson
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