Many remain doubtful about getting COVID-19 vaccine

Few have much confidence in the safety of a COVID vaccine or about whether its distribution will be equitable.

December 9, 2020

With multiple vaccines undergoing review for emergency use authorization, just 47% of Americans plan to get inoculated against coronavirus when a vaccine becomes available. Twenty-six percent do not plan to vaccinate, and 27% are unsure. An AP-NORC survey conducted in May found nearly the same results. Few Americans are very confident in the safety of the vaccine development process and many are unsure that its distribution will be equitable.  Most of those who either do not plan to get vaccinated or are currently unsure cite concerns about side effects and how the vaccine was developed and approved.

Most Americans have been following the news about possible vaccines. Sixty-eight percent have heard or read at least something about the development and approval process. Healthcare workers are the most trusted source of information about vaccines, followed by Dr. Fauci and the federal health agencies. Far more people lack trust in political figures, pharmaceutical companies, and the media when it comes to information on the vaccine.  Republicans are more inclined than Democrats to trust the president (34% vs 2%).

Few Americans are very or extremely confident that the first available vaccines will have been properly tested for safety and effectiveness and will be distributed quickly, safely, and fairly. Those who are willing to be vaccinated and those who have been following news about the development and approval process have more confidence, as do college educated and older Americans.

Those who worry that they or someone in their household will get coronavirus, have heard or read about the development of the vaccines, and older Americans are more likely to say they will get a coronavirus vaccine once it becomes available. Black Americans are less likely than other racial and ethnic groups to plan to get inoculated. 

Fifty-seven percent of those who will get vaccinated plan to wait until others have received the vaccine to ascertain that it is safe, while 42% would like to get vaccinated as soon as possible.

Most of those who will not get vaccinated are sure about that decision. Seventy-five percent say their mind is made up; 25% say it is possible they could decide differently in the future. 

Fifty-nine percent of Americans think vaccines developed in United States should only be used domestically, while 38% believe vaccines should be available to other countries. 

As the nation’s scientific agencies begin setting guidelines for which Americans should get priority for the vaccine, more than 80% of the public think health care workers, nursing home workers and residents, and people with chronic conditions should get high priority once the vaccine is available.  Few say elected officials, athletes, or people like them should be given priority.  The public also strongly supports giving higher priority to communities with hard-hit populations or where the virus is likely to spread quickly.

The nationwide poll was conducted December 3-7, 2020 using the AmeriSpeak® Panel, the probability-based panel of NORC at the University of Chicago. Online and telephone interviews using landlines and cell phones were conducted with 1,117 adults. The margin of sampling error is +/- 3.9 percentage points.

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