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Survey Reveals Americans Are Divided On COVID-19 Vaccines

Vials of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine are prepared for distribution in Pinellas County on Dec. 16, 2020.
Vials of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine are prepared for distribution in Pinellas County on Dec. 16, 2020.

According to a recent USF survey, almost a quarter of Americans are not planning on getting vaccinated against COVID-19 anytime soon. Many do not believe the vaccines are safe.

Americans remain somewhat divided as to whether or not they will receive the newly developed COVID-19 vaccines in the coming months.

The University of South Florida School of Public Affairs, in partnership with The Florida Center for Cybersecurity at USF, surveyed approximately 1,000 voting age Americans.

About 59% of the participants who were asked if they will get vaccinated, said they would either “definitely” or “probably get vaccinated,” while 23% said they will “probably not” or “definitely not” get vaccinated.

Disagreement also exists among those polled when it comes to the safety and effectiveness of the recently approved vaccines.

The survey shows that 29% of respondents said they are either “not very confident” or “not at all confident” that the vaccines are effective in slowing the spread of COVID-19. One-third said they are either “not very confident” or “not at all confident” that the vaccines are safe.

Stephen Neely, associate professor at the USF School of Public Affairs, suggests that some of the unwillingness may be because the extent of potential side effects isn’t yet known.

“The rollout of the vaccine hasn’t been very smooth,” said Neely. “For that reason, we haven’t seen as many people get vaccinated and be OK, so that hurts people’s confidence in the safety and efficacy of the vaccine.”

Politics also plays a role in the mistrust of COVID-19 vaccines.

“There is certainly a concern over political messaging.” said Neely. “We see a lot of misinformation swirling around on social media and other places about vaccines.”

“One of the biggest challenges facing the new (Biden) administration is how to depoliticize this conversation,” Neely added.

Less than a third of respondents said that they get information about COVID-19 vaccines from government websites (30%) or a medical professional (28%), which Neely says is “concerning."

The most commonly cited sources of information that people use for COVID-19 vaccines are television news (57%), friends, family, and co-workers (40%), and social media (32%).

All of which, according to Neely, are “potentially politically biased.”

There were variances among different demographics as well.

Men who were surveyed are more likely (64%) to indicate they will get vaccinated than women (53%). Neely suggests that a lack of further research on the vaccine may be what is causing hesitation.

“There’s no data on the effects of the vaccine on (women’s) fertility,” said Neely. “There’s going to be more of a ‘wait and see’ approach just to make sure there are no unexpected effects.”

Almost half (49%) of African American respondents said they will “probably” or “definitely get vaccinated” despite the community being disproportionately affected by COVID-19. That compares with 60% of both whites and Hispanics.

Small differences were also visible among age groups.

A majority of people (60%) between the ages of 18 and 24 said that they will likely get vaccinated. That number is lowest among respondents between the ages of 45 and 54 at only 48%. People over the age of 65, who are more vulnerable to the virus, were the most likely to get vaccinated, as 76% say they will “probably” or “definitely get vaccinated.”

The survey included a sample of 1,003 voting-age Americans, which according to Neely, is “representative of the nation by region, gender, race, ethnicity, age and education level.”

The survey was conducted Jan. 9-12. The poll was reported with a margin of error of plus/minus 3%, and with a confidence level of 95%.

Copyright 2021 WUSF Public Media - WUSF 89.7

Josuan Rodriguez