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Expand chart
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.

Go deeper

May 16, 2021 - Health

Franklin Graham would help Biden persuade evangelicals on vaccines

The Rev. Franklin Graham would be happy to work with the Biden administration on encouraging evangelicals to get COVID vaccines, he told "Axios on HBO."

  • "I would work with the Biden administration. I would work with the CDC. I would work with all of 'em to try to help save life," he told Axios' Mike Allen.

Why it matters: Evangelicals have expressed high levels of vaccine hesitancy.

May 16, 2021 - Health

CDC director says politics didn't play a role in abrupt mask policy shift

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention director Rochelle Walensky told "Fox News Sunday" that political pressure had nothing to do with the agency's sudden announcement that fully vaccinated Americans can go without masks in most indoor settings.

Why it matters: Emerging evidence shows vaccinated people are less likely to transmit the virus, as COVID-19 cases and deaths drop. But the responsibility to uphold the abrupt policy change falls to individuals and businesses.