Only one in five Kentuckians say they have been contacted by a health professional about getting a COVID-19 vaccine and just one in seven say have been contacted for that reason by their health-insurance provider, according to a statewide poll.
The poll was conducted Aug. 4 through Sept. 4 for the Foundation for a Healthy Kentucky.
Foundation President and CEO Ben Chandler announced the poll results during the foundation’s annual Howard L. Bost Memorial Health Policy Forum. He said the results for health-care professionals were “a little bit surprising” and those for health-insurance providers were “a real shocker.”
“What this tells us, I think, is that we have a lot of work to do,” Chandler said. “Would doctors and health insurance providers reaching out have made a difference in where we are today? Well, I don’t know the answer to that. But I do think ... it’s certainly worth a try in the future to think about seeing if we could figure out a way to get doctors and to get insurance companies to reach out more effectively and, in a systematic way to the people who have not gotten vaccinated.”
The poll also found Kentucky adults said they would take recommendations on vaccines from their health-care providers, Chandler said.
The poll asked Kentucky adults if they agreed with this statement: “Generally, I do what my doctor or health-care provider recommends about vaccines for me.” Sixty% strongly agreed, 22% agreed somewhat, 1% leaned toward agreeing, 9% disagreed somewhat, 6% strongly disagreed and 2% said they didn’t know. The older and better educated the respondent, the more likely they were to agree.
The poll, which had an error margin of plus or minus 4.3 percentage points, found that 27% of adults who had not taken a COVID-19 vaccine said they strongly agreed that they would take their vaccine recommendations from their doctor. Chandler said that suggests that one-third of Kentuckians might be persuaded by their doctor or other health-care provider to get a Covid-19 shot.
“We may be able to figure out a way to create a system where this could happen,” Chandler said. “I think we could maybe make up some ground if we did that.”
Cory Meadows of the Kentucky Medical Association, the lobby for physicians, was asked during a panel discussion about vaccine messaging and why more providers aren’t reaching out to their patients. He said it could be due partly to a heavier-than-usual workload after pandemic slowdowns last year.
“I do think there’s a practical side to it,” Meadows said. “Given the workload and the patient load that they have ... the real side of it right now is catching up on a lot of stuff. But I do think that many of them are starting to have those conversations, especially during this Delta surge.”
While moderating a panel on the first day of the forum, Dr. Brent Wright of Glasgow said it’s difficult to have 15-minute conversations to explain vaccines and when you are running 30 minutes behind already.
Meadows acknowledged that some health-care providers may be reluctant to bring up the controversial topic of COVID-19 vaccination for fear of losing patients, but he did not think that was a significant factor.
“There may be a certain element to that,” he said. “I think physicians try to be sensitive to patients’ concerns. However, I think given the severity of this virus, especially with the Delta surge, I don’t sense, at least in my conversations with physicians, that that’s holding a lot of them back.”
Any possibility that the beneficiaries may not think of managed-care firms as a “health-insurance provider,” the wording used in the poll question, did not arise when the poll was field-tested before it was conducted, pollster Eric Rademacher of the University of Cincinnati told Kentucky Health News.
The Kentucky Association of Health Plans, the lobby for insurance companies in the state, said it had engaged in “unprecedented outreach campaigns” with community partners, using “calls, texts, emails, letters, social media, events, giveaways and promotions to encourage commercial and Medicaid plan members to receive the COVID-19 vaccine.”
KAHP’s latest gambit is a sweepstakes for Medicaid beneficiaries with 20 Disney World trips as the prizes. At least some managed-care organizations are offering Medicaid beneficiaries cash bonuses for getting vaccinated, KAHP spokesman Tyler Glick said.