When it comes to whether or not to receive a COVID-19 vaccine, new research suggests that people in the United States trust scientific institutions like the World Health Organization more than their political leaders. The findings, published in JAMA Network Open, shed light on several factors that influence willingness to get vaccinated against COVID-19.
To examine Americans’ willingness to receive a COVID-19 vaccine, the researchers used a method that has become widely used by marketing researchers to measure consumer preferences. In the study, 1,971 American adults were presented with two hypothetical COVID-19 vaccines and were then asked whether they would choose vaccine A, vaccine B, or neither. Various attributes for each hypothetical were listed, such as its efficacy, the incidence of adverse effects, its the nation of origin, and the agency or political leader who endorsed the vaccine.
“Understanding how different vaccine attributes affect individual preferences about vaccination may help inform public health authorities about what types of endorsements, incentives, or messages are necessary to achieve broader community uptake,” the researchers explained.
The data for the study was collected on July 9, 2020.
Efficacy appeared to be the most important attribute in Americans’ willingness to adopt a COVID-19 vaccine. Barely half of the participants said they would be willing to take a hypothetical vaccine with an efficacy of 50% but vaccine acceptance rose to 61% when its efficacy was 90%.
Vaccine acceptance also improved with a longer protection duration (five years vs. one year) and a lower incidence of major side effects.
In addition, the researchers found evidence that endorsements influenced vaccine acceptance. The average willingness to receive a vaccine was lowest when endorsed by President Donald Trump and only slightly better when endorsed by his Democratic rival Joe Biden. It was significantly higher when endorsed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention or the World Health Organization.
“Both Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and World Health Organization endorsements were associated with more likelihood of vaccination than political endorsements, suggesting that public outreach campaigns encouraging vaccination should rely on advice from health experts, perhaps to the exclusion of specific political figures,” the researchers said.
The hypothetical COVID-19 vaccine that garnered the greatest acceptance had 90% efficacy, a 5-year protection duration, low levels of major and minor side effects, full FDA approval, was developed in the United Kingdom, and was endorsed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The average willingness to receive this vaccine was 71%.
In line with other research, the new study found that older individuals, Black individuals, and women reported being less likely, on average, to receive a vaccine against COVID-19. Republicans reported being less likely to receive a vaccine than their Democratic counterparts.
“Accordingly, public health authorities might consider outreach strategies that address the specific concerns of older adults and minority communities that have been more susceptible to COVID-19,” the researchers said.
The study, “Factors Associated With US Adults’ Likelihood of Accepting COVID-19 Vaccination“, was authored by Sarah Kreps, Sandip Prasad, John S. Brownstein,Yulin Hswen, Brian T. Garibaldi, Baobao Zhang, and Douglas L. Kriner.