Dec 15, 2020 - Health

Vaccine hesitancy is curable

Data: KFF; Chart: Sara Wise/Axios

Many Americans are hesitant about a coronavirus vaccine, but few are truly dug in against one, according to our new KFF COVID-19 Vaccine Monitor.

Why it matters: This is encouraging news, and suggests that people may be more willing to get vaccinated if they get more information from sources they trust.

The big picture: Four groups jump out as vaccine hesitant: Republicans, rural Americans, Black adults and essential workers.

Yes, but: Many skeptics in each of those groups may be persuadable, and hesitancy is often driven more by caution than by staunch opposition to getting vaccinated.

  • 71% of hesitant Black adults and 51% of hesitant essential workers say they’re unsure about the vaccines because they’re worried about side effects.
  • Similarly, 50% of vaccine-hesitant Black adults worry they will actually get COVID-19 from the vaccines, and 50% of essential workers said they don’t trust the government to make sure the vaccines are safe and effective. 
  • Once those Americans learn more, or see widespread vaccinations with few side effects, they may feel more comfortable.

By the numbers: Hesitancy is often driven more by caution than by staunch opposition to getting vaccinated.

  • 33% of Republicans, for example, said they’d “wait and see” before getting vaccinated, and 28% said they would do it as soon as possible. That leaves just 25% who said they will “definitely not” get vaccinated and 10% who said they’ll only do it if it’s mandatory.
  • 36% of essential workers want to “wait and see,” while 28% want a vaccine as soon as possible and 18% said they definitely will not take it.

Between the lines: Distrust of government and other institutions, especially in communities of color, will remain a real barrier.

  • It will take targeted and effective messaging and information efforts, using credible messengers, to reach these groups and address their specific concerns. No one message or single messenger is likely to be effective across the board.

The bottom line: If those efforts are well-funded and implemented wisely, it does appear real progress can be made to reduce hesitancy among the most resistant groups.

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