CDC Survey Shows Some Vaccine Reluctance Among Americans

Only about half of U.S. adults surveyed late last year said they were certain or very likely to get a Covid-19 vaccine, according to a new report from by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The study, released Tuesday in the CDC’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, surveyed 3,541 people in September and 2,033 individuals in December. The first Covid-19 vaccine, developed by Pfizer Inc. and BioNTech SE was authorized by the Food and Drug Administration on Dec. 11. A similar vaccine made by Moderna Inc. was cleared for emergency-use shortly thereafter.

A greater proportion of people indicated that they planned to get a vaccine in December than in September. But the finding showed that more work needed to be done to address concerns about the vaccines after they were cleared for use, said agency researchers who co-wrote the report.

Just under 20% of adults said in December they were “somewhat likely” to get vaccinated, and over 30% said they were “not likely.” About half of essential workers and adults with other medical conditions said they intended to be vaccinated, though both groups are at higher risk of contracting severe Covid-19.

The study found that younger adults, women, Black people, adults not living in cities and those with low education, low income and lacking health insurance were most likely to say they didn’t plan on getting a vaccine. About 66% of elderly adults, however, said they were certain or very likely to get a vaccine.

“In the Black and LatinX communities, in particular, vaccine hesitancy and skepticism is embedded with a long history of trauma of having government and medical communities not address their needs,” said Michelle Williams, an epidemiologist and the dean of faculty at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, in an interview.

“The new administration needs to be better about appreciating that fact than the last one, reflecting on the trauma people have experienced, and ensuring the messengers for the vaccine represent the diversity of voices that are engaged in the scientific process,” Williams said.

Nearly 30% of CDC survey respondents said they were mainly concerned about the side effects and safety of vaccines. About 10% said they were concerned about the swift pace at which the vaccines were developed, the report found. About 14.5% said they planned to “wait and see if it is safe and may get it later,” and 12.5% cited government distrust, the study said.P

Public health officials, including top infectious disease expert Anthony Fauci, have suggested that the Trump administration’s Operation Warp Speed program to accelerate Covid-19 vaccine development and distribution sowed doubt by suggesting recklessness with its now-famous name. The Biden administration has since removed the moniker to increase public confidence, and has launched a health equity task force to spotlight social disparities.

Recent polling has showed that the share of Americans who want a Covid-19 vaccine is growing in 2021. Half of U.S. adults surveyed by Kaiser Family Foundation between Jan. 11 and 18 expressed enthusiasm for getting the vaccine, up from 34% the previous month. The share increased among Black, Hispanic and White adults.

Williams said that the introduction of a one-shot vaccine developed by Johnson and Johnson should also bolster confidence and help motivate hesitant people to get inoculated against the virus.

“If we have a one-shot vaccine that doesn’t require the same kind of coaching, it will facilitate speedy vaccination with lower burden on both the individual and the health systems that are managing the vaccination program,” Williams said. “The J&J vaccine provides a pragmatic and practical approach to providing protection that the population needs.”

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