Are people still hesitant to get the coronavirus vaccine?

a person holds a "vaccines save lives" sign as we wonder will people get the covid vaccine
Photo via Johnny Silvercloud/Flickr (CC BY SA 2.0)

With the Pfizer vaccine already being distributed to 50 states and the Moderna version not far behind, the big question on everyone’s mind is: Will people get the COVID-19 vaccine? Once again, it appears that American attitudes have changed. 

A new ABC News/Ipsos poll conducted Dec. 12-13—just one day after the FDA authorized Pfizer’s vaccination for emergency use—found that eight in 10 Americans say they will now get the vaccine. Of those people who say they will get the COVID vaccine, 40% will take it as soon as it’s available to them, while 44% plan on waiting a bit before getting it.

Yet, this is a vast improvement compared to just three months ago, when American confidence in a vaccine appeared to be at an all-time low.

A national study conducted by Pew Research Center from Sept. 8-13 found that only 51% of adults said they would “definitely or probably” get a COVID-19 vaccine if it had been available at the time—compared to 72% in May. Of those surveyed in September, nearly half, 49%, said they “definitely or probably would not” get the coronavirus vaccine. 

In this new poll, now just 15% say they will refuse the vaccine entirely.

So what changed public perception? Well, it stands to reason, as case numbers and death tolls have spiked over the past few months, that people are starting to understand how severe the virus is and how it can impact them.

More than two-thirds of respondents polled, 69%, also say that they or someone they know have been infected by the virus. Of those who have been closely impacted by the pandemic, 45% say they would choose immediate inoculation. That’s compared to only 30% of people who say they would receive the vaccination now but who have not contracted the virus and do not know someone who has.

About one-third of Americans surveyed in the poll, 39%, think states should make the vaccine mandatory for residents.

There were discrepancies found among participants of varying education levels and political affiliations. Americans with higher levels of education are generally more likely to choose to be vaccinated, as were Democrats.

Nine in 10 Americans with a bachelor’s degree or higher say they are willing to get a vaccine compared to only 80% of those with a high school degree or less. The latter group is also twice as likely to say they would never receive a COVID-19 vaccination—20% with a high school degree or less, compared to 9% of college-educated respondents.

Democrats, 49%, and independents, 42%, are also nearly twice as likely as Republicans, 28%, to opt to get the vaccine immediately. Interestingly enough, an equal 45% of Democrats, Republicans, and independents say they would prefer to wait to get vaccinated.

However, there was an even more significant divide in partisan respondents who say they will never get the vaccine. Republicans, at 26%, are more than four times as likely as Democrats, 6%, and nearly twice as likely as independents, 14%, to refuse a vaccine.

Though far from perfect, if these numbers of people willing to get a COVID vaccination hold steady or continue to improve in the coming weeks and months, life could very well return to pre-pandemic normalcy in 2021.

According to the Mayo Clinic, we would need approximately 70% of the population possessing coronavirus antibodies to achieve herd immunity and essentially put a halt to the pandemic.

Though there’s an end in sight, it will be more important than ever to stay diligent during these next few months to reduce the virus’ spread while the vaccines have time to do their job.

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Sources: ABC News, Ipsos, Mayo Clinic

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