Public Opinion on COVID-19 Vaccination: KFF COVID-19 Vaccine Monitor

February 3, 2021

The COVID-19 Vaccine Monitor is an ongoing research project launched by the Kaiser Family Foundation to measure public receptiveness to getting vaccinated. Using surveys and focus groups, this project measures public confidence in the vaccine, trust in COVID-19 messengers and messages, and vaccination experiences. Key findings from November 30 – December 8, 2020 can be found below.

COEH will also be joined by Liz Hamel, Vice President and Director of Public Opinion and Survey Research at the Kaiser Family Foundation at our annual symposium, COEH Builds Bridges: Interdisciplinary and Ethical Response to the COVID-19 Pandemic on February 12th, where she will present on the most recent data.

Key findings from November 30 - December 8, 2020:

Vaccine Confidence and Hesitancy – Trends and Reasons

Overall, the share of people willing to get the vaccine has increased.

  • 71% of the public said they would definitely or probably get the vaccine if it were determined to be safe by scientists and available for free; up from 63% in September.

  • 27% of the public remains vaccine hesitant, saying they definitely or probably would not get vaccinated, even if vaccines were determined to be safe by scientists and available for free. Hesitancy was highest among republicans, adults ages 30-49, and rural residents. Notably, 35% of Black adults, a group that has been disproportionately affected by the pandemic, are vaccine hesitant.

  • Primary reasons for hesitancy include: possible side effects (59%), lack of trust in the government to ensure vaccine safety and effectiveness (55%), concerns the vaccine is too new (53%), and worries over the role of politics in the development process (51%). About half of Black adults say they are hesitant because they don’t trust vaccines in general (47%), or they are concerned about getting COVID-19 from the vaccine (50%).

“Many who are hesitant are in wait-and-see mode, and their concerns include worries about side effects and whether the vaccine can cause COVID-19, which may dissipate as people get more information and see the vaccine introduced successfully among people they know.” - KFF President and CEO Drew Altman.

Trusted Messengers

  • It was found among all racial and ethnic groups and across partisan groups that personal health care providers are the most trusted source of information on the COVID-19 vaccine, ahead of national, state, and local messengers.

  • Trust in government sources of information is split along partisan lines, with more democrats than republicans saying they trust such sources to provide reliable information about a COVID-19 vaccine.

Vaccine Attitudes and Enthusiasm

The initial Monitor survey identifies four categories of enthusiasm for getting vaccinated, which may require different communications strategies:

  • 34% are in the enthusiastic “as soon as possible” group, who want to get vaccinated as soon as they can. This group overwhelming consists of democrats, seniors, white adults, and people with college degrees. Given eagerness to get the vaccine, some in this group may be frustrated with the pace of vaccine distribution, especially if they don’t fall into a vaccine priority group. Therefore, messaging emphasizing why different groups are prioritized will be important.

  • 39% are in the “wait and see” group who want to see how vaccinations work for others before getting it themselves. Therefore, messaging about the vaccine effectiveness, safety, and side effects during the initial rollout will influence this group’s willingness to get vaccinated. This group is expected to be the most dynamic during the rollout because what they hear about the first round of vaccines will likely shape their decisions about whether or not to get vaccinated.

  • 9% are in the “only if required” group, saying they would only get vaccinated if required for work, school, or other activities. Most (61%) of this group are essential workers who work outside their homes during the pandemic, a category considered to be a higher risk for exposure. Although this group is relatively small, with such a large share of the group being at a higher risk for exposure, their attitudes about the vaccine can have great influence regarding vaccine confidence.

  • 15% are in the “definitely not” group, saying they would not get vaccinated even if it were deemed safe by scientists and available for free. This group is largely composed of republicans and those with no higher than a high-school level education. This group may be the hardest to reach with pro-vaccine messaging considering they have low trust in public health messengers, low rates of flu vaccination, and high rates of believing misinformation about other public health measures, like mask-wearing.