COVID Vaccine Hesitancy Drops, Especially Among Blacks, Survey Shows

Mary Caffrey

Mary Caffrey is the Associate Editorial Director of AJMC/Managed Care for MJH Life Sciences. Her editorial responsibilities include Evidence-Based Oncology, Chief Healthcare Executive, and Managed Healthcare Executive.

Sentiment among Blacks has shifted markedly since February, with 55% now having had their first shot or being willing to be vaccinated.

A new survey shows that hesitancy about getting a COVID-19 vaccine is evaporating, and a majority of Blacks have either had at least one shot or plan to get vaccinated, according to a new Kaiser Family Foundation poll released today.

The findings, based on a poll taken March 15-22, showed that Blacks were the group most likely to move away from the “wait and see” posture into those definitely planning to get vaccinated; their opinion shifted 14% from February. Their rate is now comparable to Whites at 64% and Hispanics at 61%.

Seniors are by far the most enthusiastic about getting vaccinated. Among those age 65 or older, 64% have already had at least one shot, and only 8% said they would “definitely not” get vaccinated. It’s worth noting that Americans older than 65 were children when polio outbreaks were still a common occurrence, and many experienced the arrival of the first vaccines in 1955, followed by an oral polio vaccine in 1963.

There are groups that are COVID-19 vaccine holdouts. Among them, Republicans and white evangelical Christians stand out as those most likely to say they will not get vaccinated. Poll results show nearly 30% from each group say they will “definitely not get vaccinated. By far, the most common reason is that the vaccine is too new, at 17%; other reasons included concerns about side effects to components of the vaccine.

Telling these doubters that the vaccine is based on technology under development for nearly 20 years did little to change their mind, however—only about 6% said they might reconsider getting the vaccine.

The news comes amid reports of real-world evidence from CDC that even one shot of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine are 80% effective at preventing SARS-CoV-2 infections among first responders and essential workers two weeks after the first injection; both vaccines call for two injections several weeks apart. And all three approved vaccines—including the Johnson & Johnson single-dose vaccine—have been shown to be virtually 100% effective in preventing hospitalization and death from COVID-19.

Yet, some are holdouts are not convinced by that evidence, even as they embrace moves by Southern governors to reopen the economy and take off masks that public health officials say are still needed to hold down infection and hospitalization rates while vaccinations continue among younger adults.

What will convince people to get vaccinated? Restricting travel might do it. The poll found that among those not vaccinated or planning to do so, 3 in 10 said they would be more likely to get vaccinated if airlines required it or if CDC said those who had been vaccinated did not have to wear masks on the plane.