Over 50% of Americans Say They’ll Get Vaccine Once Available, 30% Aren’t Sure.

The potential for a return to something approaching normal life next year got a significant shot in the arm this month thanks to, well, a shot in the arm. Several shots in the arm, to be specific, as vaccines began to be deployed and administered to people across the U.S.

While most of those who were first in line to get the virus were government officials, health care workers, and residents/staff members at nursing homes and long-term care facilities, experts expect the circle to quickly expand to older adults, essential workers, and those who have underlying health conditions. And by the spring, it’s expected that regular Americans who don’t fit into those categories will be able to receive the vaccine.

Health officials have estimated that at least 70 percent of people need to be vaccinated for a safe return to public life to begin. But will that actually happen? We wanted to understand whether Americans are planning to get a vaccine when it becomes available to them and what barriers exist for those who are hesitant to roll up their sleeves and get the shot (shots, actually; you get two doses total).

We surveyed hundreds of adults on their plans for taking the vaccine and any concerns they have that may be holding them back; read on for the full results, and check out the key findings below:

  • Fifty-two percent of people say they will get the vaccine; about one in five said they weren’t sure and a similar percentage said they wouldn’t get the vaccine in any circumstance.
  • Of those who said they wouldn’t get the shot, weren’t sure either way, or would get it only if it’s required for their jobs, more than 56 percent said one of their top concerns was the potential side effects.
  • Other concerns about vaccine development were top of mind for those who won’t or might not get the shot; more than a third said the rapid process was a hurdle for them, while almost a quarter cited negative feelings about major pharmaceutical companies.
Plans for receiving vaccine once available
Yes 51.8%
No 18.3%
Not sure 19.9%
Yes, but only if required for employment 10.1%

Among survey respondents who said they already had COVID-19, vaccine uptake rates were higher. About 56 percent of that group said they definitely would get the vaccine, while only 12 percent said they definitely wouldn’t.

Concerns over possible side effects were the biggest hurdle to vaccine adoption among our survey respondents. The rapid development process of the vaccines and doubts about how well it will guard against the virus were second and third, but far behind fears of side effects.

Reasons for decision not to get vaccine, uncertainty about getting it, or getting it only if required for job
Concern about side effects 56.4%
Concern about rapid development process 37.4%
Doubts about effectiveness of vaccine 34.0%
Distrust in Big Pharma 23.8%
Distrust in medical system 16.1%
Don't believe I need it 15.9%
Concern over “microchips” 14.7%
Distrust in medical system due to history of systemic racism 12.7%
Concern about costs or access to vaccine 12.7%
Fear of needles 10.2%
Allergy to one or more ingredient 9.1%
Prior bad reaction to vaccines 8.8%
Only use natural/homeopathic medicine 7.9%
Don't like the ingredients 7.6%
Other 6.8%
Medical condition prevents me from getting vaccine 5.9%
Tested positive for COVID-19 antibodies 4.0%
Don't believe COVID-19 is a real virus 2.3%

Many vaccine concerns were similar across gender lines, though men were more than twice as likely to say they don’t need the vaccine, and women had far greater concerns about costs and access to the necessary doses.

Reasons for decision not to get vaccine, uncertainty about getting it, or getting it only if required for job by gender
Reason Female Male
Concern about side effects 59.2% 52.5%
Concern about rapid development process 39.8% 34.0%
Doubts about effectiveness of vaccine 36.5% 30.5%
Distrust in Big Pharma 23.7% 24.1%
Distrust in medical system 14.2% 19.1%
Don't believe I need it 10.4% 23.4%
Concern over “microchips” 12.3% 18.4%
Distrust in medical system due to history of systemic racism 13.3% 12.1%
Concern about costs or access to vaccine 16.1% 7.8%
Fear of needles 8.5% 12.8%

Along generational lines, side effect concerns were highest for those 30 and older. Respondents between 18 and 29 were more doubtful that the shot would be effective, as well as being the group most worried about cost and access to the vaccine. Nearly 20 percent of those between 45 and 60 said they were concerned that the vaccine would carry microchips, which may reference a debunked myth that Microsoft Founder Bill Gates planned to use the vaccine to implant microchips into people.

Reasons for decision not to get vaccine, uncertainty about getting it, or getting it only if required for job by age
Reason 18-29 30-44 45-60 60+
Concern about side effects 42.5% 61.6% 59.8% 60.0%
Concern about rapid development process 31.3% 41.6% 38.0% 36.4%
Doubts about effectiveness of vaccine 41.3% 34.4% 27.2% 34.5%
Distrust in Big Pharma 21.3% 24.0% 20.7% 32.7%
Distrust in medical system 16.3% 14.4% 13.0% 25.5%
Don't believe I need it 17.5% 16.8% 12.0% 16.4%
Concern over “microchips” 16.3% 10.4% 19.6% 14.5%
Distrust in medical system due to history of systemic racism 12.5% 10.4% 16.3% 12.7%
Concern about costs or access to vaccine 22.5% 9.6% 15.2% 1.8%
Fear of needles 15.0% 11.2% 6.5% 7.3%

Conclusion

Americans have had to cope with a great deal of uncertainty this year, and in the very near future, that’s not likely to change. But the prospect of a return to normal is closer now than ever before, though there clearly are some signals that suggest more work is needed to convince people to receive the vaccine.

For more related research from Safehome.org, please see:

Methodology

We surveyed nearly 750 U.S. adults about a broad range of issues related to COVID-19, including whether they planned to get the vaccine shot and what fears might keep them from doing so. Our survey was conducted online during the week of December 7.

Are you a journalist or researcher writing about this topic?

Are you a journalist or researcher writing about this topic? Contact us and we'll connect you with an expert who can provide insights and data to support your work.

Submit Question