Everyone 16 and older in Massachusetts became eligible for coronavirus shots this week, both a milestone and a major challenge for the state, which is rushing to vaccinate people to protect them from the potentially deadly disease.
But many public health experts are already looking ahead to the next hurdle: After everyone who wants shots has had them, how do you convince those who don’t want shots to get them?
The US Department of Health and Human Services has released data and an interactive tool that are intended to highlight the places where efforts need to be stepped up to persuade people to get their shots.
The good news is that Massachusetts leads the nation in receptiveness to getting the vaccine.
Only 6.98 percent of residents were hesitant to get the vaccine, the lowest percentage in the nation. That contrasted with the highest state in the nation, Wyoming, where more than 30 percent of people were hesitant, according to the federal estimates.
Still, within Massachusetts, the estimated percentage of people who are hesitant to take the vaccine varied, from 8.68 percent in Bristol County to 5.8 percent in Norfolk County (the least hesitant county in the nation), according to the estimates.
The agency developed estimates for both “hesitancy” and “strong hesitancy” among people 18 and older using responses to the Census Bureau’s Household Pulse Survey, which is measuring household experiences during the pandemic.
The “hesitancy” group included people who said they would “probably not get a vaccine” or “definitely not get a vaccine.” The “strong hesitancy group” was a subset of the first group that only included people who said they would “definitely not get a vaccine.”
Here’s how the state’s counties look in terms of hesitancy and strong hesitancy.
And here’s a look at counties across the United States.
The HHS Office of the Assistant Secretary for Planning and Evaluation says on its website that the estimates were developed, using the Household Pulse Survey and other survey data, “to support state and local communication and outreach efforts.”
A poll released in March by a consortium that includes Northeastern, Harvard, Rutgers, and Northwestern universities also found Massachusetts with the lowest percentage among the states of residents who said they “would not get the COVID-19 vaccine.”
Samuel Scarpino, an epidemiologist at Northeastern University, said it was good news that people in Massachusetts are receptive to getting the shot, but the state needs to follow through and make those vaccinations happen, as well as other vaccinations for children once they are approved.
“It’s wonderful that we’re working with a situation where lots of people want to get the vaccine. We need to capitalize on that and make sure we all get it,” he said.
He warned that as the weather gets warmer and case numbers drop, people could lose their sense of urgency. “It won’t be so much hesitancy as ‘I can’t be bothered to navigate the website, take time out of my day, etc.’ That means we’re going to have to get increasingly creative about taking the vaccines to where the people are,” he said.
“We’re not done. We’ve got to get the vaccine into people’s arms, and it’s going to get harder before it’s going to get better,” he said.
Robert Weisman and Emma Platoff of the Globe staff contributed to this report.
Martin Finucane can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.