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Many Americans are less hesitant about coronavirus vaccines than before

A new poll finds the change is most pronounced among Black adults.
Registered nurse Annette Shelton administers a COVID-19 vaccine to Bernice Wyche earlier this month at Bethel Community Baptist Church in St. Petersburg. A new survey by the Kaiser Foundation found that Americans, especially Black adults, are becoming more enthusiastic about getting a shot.
Registered nurse Annette Shelton administers a COVID-19 vaccine to Bernice Wyche earlier this month at Bethel Community Baptist Church in St. Petersburg. A new survey by the Kaiser Foundation found that Americans, especially Black adults, are becoming more enthusiastic about getting a shot. [ BOYZELL HOSEY | Times ]
Published Mar. 30
Updated Mar. 30

A new poll of attitudes toward COVID-19 vaccinations shows Americans are growing more enthusiastic about being vaccinated, with the most positive change in the past month occurring among Black Americans.

About 55 percent of Black adults said they had been vaccinated or plan to be soon, up 14 percentage points from February, according to a poll released Tuesday by the Kaiser Family Foundation. The rate now approaches that of Hispanics, at 61 percent, and whites at 64 percent. (Asian Americans were not polled in sufficient numbers to compare their responses with other racial and ethnic groups.)

Related: Data shows Florida seniors getting vaccines, avoiding hospitals

But the poll found that 13 percent of respondents overall said they will “definitely not” be vaccinated, signaling that significant hurdles remain in the nation’s vaccination campaign. (Kaiser Health News is the editorially independent newsroom of Kaiser Family Foundation, an endowed nonprofit organization providing national information on health issues.)

Among all groups, Republicans and white evangelical Christians were the most likely to say they will not get vaccinated, with almost 30 percent of each group saying they will “definitely not” get a shot.

And while the poll indicated that some arguments are effective at persuading hesitant people — such as sharing that the vaccines are nearly 100 percent effective at preventing hospitalization and death — those messages do almost nothing to change the minds of people who have decided not to be vaccinated.

Last week, President Joe Biden announced that the United States has administered more than 100 million vaccine doses and doubled his goal, to 200 million doses, by early May. According to the Kaiser foundation poll, 32 percent said they had already received at least one dose, and 30 percent said they planned to get it as soon as possible.

The poll also showed fewer people waiting to see how others respond to the vaccines before deciding to get vaccinated themselves, with 17 percent saying they fall into that “wait and see” group this month — a drop from 22 percent in February and 31 percent in January.

Young adults, ages 18 to 29, and Black adults were most likely to be in this “wait and see” group, at 25 percent and 24 percent, respectively.

Related: How life changed for 10 Florida health experts who got coronavirus vaccines

Twenty-seven percent of Republicans and 35 percent of white evangelical Christians said they had already received at least one dose, the poll showed. Forty-two percent of Democrats said they have been vaccinated.

But Republicans and white evangelical Christians, along with 21 percent of essential workers in non-health fields and 20 percent of rural residents, were the most likely to say they will “definitely not” get vaccinated. One in 5 Republicans said they would be more likely to get vaccinated if former President Donald Trump strongly urged them to do so.

People who said they would “definitely not” receive a vaccine were asked to identify the main reason for their decision. The most common reason, at 17 percent, was that the vaccines are too new and not enough information is known about their long-term effects.

But informing people in the “definitely not” camp that scientists have been working on the technology used in the vaccines for about 20 years, among other arguments, did little to change their minds. Only about 6 percent said hearing that argument made them more likely to get the vaccine.

The poll found that some arguments were persuasive to those who had yet to make up their minds, though. Forty-one percent said they were more likely to get the vaccine after hearing that the vaccines are nearly 100 percent effective at preventing hospitalization and death from COVID-19 — the most effective message the Kaiser foundation tested.

Some indicated they would be more likely to get vaccinated if it were easier to do while going about their daily lives — or made going about their daily lives easier.

Of those in the “wait and see” group, half said they would be more likely to get vaccinated if it were offered to them during a routine medical appointment. And 37 percent said they would be more likely if their employer arranged for on-site vaccinations at their workplace. Thirty-eight percent said they would be more likely if their employer offered to pay them an extra $200 to be vaccinated.

Of those who were not already vaccinated or planning to be soon, the poll showed travel restrictions could prove persuasive. About 3 in 10 said they would be more likely to get vaccinated if airlines required passengers to be vaccinated, or if the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said vaccinated people could travel freely and, in most cases, would not need to wear masks.

Still, 7 percent of those who said they would “definitely not” be vaccinated said they would be more likely to do so if airlines and the CDC were to make those policy changes.

The poll also showed that, for the first time, most of those who had not been vaccinated said they have enough information to know where and when to get a vaccine. However, problems remain: About 3 in 10 said they did not know whether they were eligible in their state. Most likely to respond that way were Hispanic adults and those under age 30, making less than $40,000 annually or who do not have a college degree.

The survey was conducted March 15-22 among 1,862 adults and has a margin of error of plus or minus 3 percentage points.

This story was written by Kaiser Health News correspondent Emmarie Huetteman. KHN is a national newsroom that produces in-depth journalism about health issues. Together with Policy Analysis and Polling, KHN is one of the three major operating programs at the Kaiser Family Foundation. The foundation is an endowed nonprofit organization providing information on health issues to the nation.

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