With more shots in arms, research project tracks changes in vaccine hesitancy

COVID-19 vaccination card
Posted at 6:32 PM, May 04, 2021
and last updated 2021-05-04 19:32:13-04

KANSAS CITY, Mo.  — More than 100 million people in the U.S. are fully vaccinated, but not everyone plans to roll up their sleeves.

According to one recent poll, 1 in 4 Americans doesn't plan to get the vaccine.

"It just happened so fast," Andre Chapman, a Detroit man, told our Scripps sister station about the development of the vaccine.

"There are some friends who've taken the vaccine, and they're Catholic. There's other friends who like, they're just leaving everything to God," Albert Martin, a Denver man unsure about getting vaccinated, said to our Scripps station in Colorado.

There are a lot of different reasons behind the hesitation.

Ashley Kirzinger and her colleagues at the Kaiser Family Foundation have heard a lot of them.

"At this point we've collected our 11,000 interviews with people across the U.S., really focusing on the most at-risk populations," Kirzinger, KFF Associate Director for Public Opinion & Survey Research, said.

Her team built a COVID-19 Vaccine Monitor to track attitudes and experiences with vaccinations.

It groups respondents into different categories based on their intentions when it comes to the vaccine.

For instance, there are people who are taking a "wait and see approach."

"Their biggest concern is side effects and the safety and efficacy of the vaccine," Kirzinger said of that population.

Since KFF began tracking attitudes in December, the "wait and see" group has shrunk.

Wait and See group
Courtesy: KFF COVID-19 Vaccine Monitor

"At this point they've waited, they've seen, they've seen very few major side effects. They have lots of friends and family members that have gotten vaccinated," Kirzinger said.

KFF has especially seen an uptake in vaccination among Black adults, many of whom were in that category.

The group that hasn't moved? Those who say they will "definitely not" get the vaccine, even if it's required for work or school.

Definitely not
Courtesy: KFF COVID-19 Vaccine Monitor

The Kaiser Family Foundation team hasn't been able to identify messaging that makes the group more likely to get vaccinated. Kirzinger stressed it will take a lot of different messages and messengers to change minds.

It's best to start, she said, by respecting that it's a personal choice.

"There are legitimate reasons and concerns that people have around the vaccine, so any kind of blaming of individuals is really not effective," she said, adding that it's best to move away from politics and towards public health.

However, political divisions are evident in responses to KFF's questions.

For instance, Republicans are more likely to fall in the "definitely not" category or the "only if required" one. As of March 21, 35% of Republicans polled fell into those categories. Only 8% of Democrats showed the same hesitancy.

Still, there's optimism the numbers could move as more people see their friends and family members get their doses.