May 17, 2021 - Health

Vaccine-hesitant Americans cite inaccurate side effects

Cited side effect concerns among vaccine-hesitant Americans
Data: Harris Poll; Chart: Danielle Alberti/Axios

An alarming amount of vaccine-hesitant people who list side effects as a top concern falsely believe the vaccines cause death, DNA alteration, infertility or birth defects, according to recent Harris polling.

Why it matters: Respondents also listed blood clots, which are a real side effect of some coronavirus vaccines, but extremely rare. This survey suggests that misinformation or a skewed understanding of risk may be behind a sizable portion of vaccine hesitancy.

Between the lines: The survey drilled down into the concerns of respondents who said they are "not likely" to get a vaccine, specifically the 25% who cited being worried about side effects as one of their top reasons for not getting vaccinated.

Details: Awareness of blood clots increases with age, per the survey.

  • While only 37% of Gen Z respondents said they think the vaccine causes blood clots, 81% of Boomers — or people 57 and older — said the same.
  • Technically, these respondents are right — some coronavirus vaccines have been linked to blood clots, but in very few cases. It's unclear how worried the respondents are about blood clots, but if the side effects they're most aware of are also the ones they're most concerned about, they're probably way overestimating the risk.

About half of Gen Z respondents accurately listed flu-like symptoms as side effects, compared with 65% of Boomers.

  • But the generational gap in the number of people who inaccurately listed other side effects shrunk. For example, 24% of Gen Z respondents cited infertility, and 20% of Boomers said the same.
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