Perhaps they are waiting for the start of the Mass VaxMillions lottery game to launch next week. Maybe they haven't been convinced of the threat. It's possible they just don't trust the science.

Whatever the reason, residents of Bristol and Hampden Counties here in Massachusetts have been reluctant to be vaccinated against the COVID-19 virus.

While Massachusetts has eclipsed the Baker Administrations's goal of 4.1 million residents fully vaccinated, only 54 percent of residents in Bristol County have received at least one dose of the vaccine. In Hampden County, it's only 52 percent. Less than half of the residents in each county are fully vaccinated, according to state health officials. That includes some of the Commonwealth's larger cities such as Springfield, New Bedford, Fall River, and Taunton.

Officials in New Bedford have attempted to temp residents to get vaccinated by offering Dunkin' gift cards. I'm not sure how successful they have been.

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It's also worth noting that a growing number of Americans are questioning the origin of the COVID virus. A new Fox News survey indicates a 60 percent majority believe COVID-19 was "created by scientists and leaked from a lab in China." Fox says that's nearly double the 31 percent who "think the pandemic started naturally."

It is clear that there is still a lot of concern and confusion over both the virus and the vaccines designed to protect folks from it. Many people I speak with on a regular basis feel as though the information they have received so far has been conflicting and unreliable.

The decision to vax or not to vax is deeply personal and should be thoroughly considered and based on your own circumstances. Lotteries and prizes only add to the confusion with which many folks are wrestling.

Barry Richard is the host of The Barry Richard Show on 1420 WBSM New Bedford. He can be heard weekdays from noon to 3 p.m. Contact him at barry@wbsm.com and follow him on Twitter @BarryJRichard58. The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of the author.

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