Nearly two in five U.S. adults expressed hesitation about getting a COVID-19 vaccine in newly publish scientific research.
The study, published in the journal Vaccine, found that intention to vaccinate was highest for men, older people, individuals who identified as white, the affluent and college-educated, Democrats, and those with pre-existing medical conditions.
“COVID-19 will require herd immunity to help stem the tide of the virus. However, because of the politicization of other public health measures (i.e., mask-wearing, etc.), I was curious if the vaccine would also be politized,” said study author Jeanette B. Ruiz, an assistant professor at the University of California, Davis.
“Also, there were grumblings that anti-vaccine advocates were seizing on the uncertainty of the situation to make inroads. I wanted a better picture of what American’s were thinking in regards to the COVID-19 vaccine.”
The researchers used the Dynata Samplify platform to survey 804 U.S. residents. Recruitment was based on quota sampling to produce a U.S. census-matched sample representative of the nation, and was representative of the U.S. population in terms of region of residence, sex and age, but also diverse with regard to all demographic variables assessed.
In the survey, which was conducted in June of 2020, the participants were asked about their intention to get vaccinated against COVID-19 once a vaccine became available. Ruiz and her colleagues also assessed the demographic and health status profile of individuals least likely to vaccinate, general vaccine knowledge, and the role of media and partisan politics.
Nearly 15% of the sample reported being extremely or somewhat unlikely to get vaccinated, while 23% were unsure. Those unwilling to get the vaccine cited concerns about dangerous side effects, worries about allergic responses, and doubts about effectiveness as their primary reasons.
“More than a third of people nationwide are either unlikely or at least hesitant to get a COVID-19 vaccine when it becomes available to them. The seemingly rushed process of the COVID-19 vaccine development has fueled doubts about vaccine efficacy and safety,” Ruiz told PsyPost.
The researchers also found that several sociodemographic factors were associated with the intention to vaccinate against COVID-19.
“Respondents more likely to be vaccinated against COVID-19 included those with an income of $120,000 or higher, or who identified as a Democrat. Those who rely primarily on social media for information about COVID-19 anticipated a lower likelihood of COVID-19 vaccine acceptance,” Ruiz explained. Those with higher levels of education and greater vaccine knowledge were also more likely to vaccinate.
Cable news also appears to play a role. Despite having similar levels of general vaccination knowledge, those who relied on Fox News for their information about COVID-19 were less willing to get vaccinated compared to those who relied on CNN and MSNBC. Fox News viewers also perceived COVID-19 to be less of a personal threat.
“Unfortunately, the health disparities present in the spread and treatment of COVID-19 were reflected in survey participants’ vaccination hesitancy estimations,” Ruiz added. “The pandemic has especially burdened the African American, Latino, and Native American communities, who account for a disproportionate number of COVID-19 cases and death. However, respondents from these populations reported less interest in getting vaccinated against COVID-19.”
But the study is not without some caveats.
“We only surveyed English-speaking residents,” Ruiz noted. “Also, because the survey was administered online, we may have missed individuals with limited online access and/or knowledge. I’m also interested in further addressing how conspiracy theories may impact vaccine hesitancy.”
The study, “Predictors of intention to vaccinate against COVID-19: Results of a nationwide survey“, was authored by Jeanette B. Ruiz and Robert A. Bell.