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New Survey Shows Vaccine Hesitancy Has Significantly Decreased Since January

A doctor gives a woman in a mask a vaccine
Luis Alvarez / Getty Images.

Key Takeaways

  • Since January, vaccine hesitancy has decreased for healthcare workers from 37% to 29% and for non-healthcare workers from 41% to 31%.
  • Vaccine resistance has remained relatively steady over the past few months.
  • Factors such as age, race, and gender of healthcare workers impacted their likelihood of being hesitant to the vaccine.

Public attitude towards the COVID-19 vaccine is improving as the immunization continues to roll out. A recent report from The COVID States Project looked at how healthcare workers and regular individuals perceive the COVID-19 vaccine.

The survey included 21,500 individuals across the 50 states and D.C. to determine how factors such as age, political party, gender, and income influenced a person’s decisions and thoughts about the COVID-19 vaccine. Researchers collected data from February 5 to March 1.

Among healthcare and non-healthcare workers, vaccine resistance has remained relatively steady since January. However, vaccine hesitancy rates decreased for both groups, 37% to 29% for healthcare workers and 41% to 31% for non-healthcare workers.

While vaccine resistance applies to anyone who would choose not to get the COVID-19 vaccine once it is available to them, vaccine-hesitant individuals would prefer to get the COVID-19 vaccine after some or most people they know.

The results are good news in the fight to immunize as many people as possible. “As people see friends, family, healthcare professionals and even sports and media personalities get vaccinated safely and without issue, it naturally starts to feel safer and more commonplace,” says Dr. Jennifer Haythe, a critical care cardiologist at Columbia University Center. “In addition, being vaccinated is allowing for more freedom such as seeing other vaccinated family and friends unmasked.” 

The recent report follows a similar examination The COVID States Project published in February, which encompassed data from 25,640 people from December 16, 2020, to January 11, 2021.

The project launched in March 2020 to publicly collect data about the many facets of COVID-19, such as how behavior influences transmission rates, and help inform practitioners and governments.

Understanding Why There’s COVID-19 Vaccine Hesitancy

There are a few reasons people may be hesitant to receive the COVID-19 vaccine. To start, so much has been unknown over the past year. “We’ve all experienced a lot of uncertainty and fear with COVID-19 completely changing our daily lives. Because of this, it’s natural to worry about something new or different,” says Suzi Francis, manager of ambulatory pharmacy for St. Elizabeth Healthcare. 

Jennifer Haythe, MD

As people see friends, family, healthcare professionals and even sports and media personalities get vaccinated safely and without issue, it naturally starts to feel safer and more commonplace.

— Jennifer Haythe, MD

Another factor Francis mentions is widespread misinformation. A prime example comes from claims that the COVID-19 vaccine hurts fertility. The false sentiment originated from a former Pfizer employee who was never involved in vaccine development. To date, there is no evidence to suggest that the COVID-19 vaccine negatively impacts fertility. 

The speed by which these vaccines were created and made available has also led to hesitancy. “People have heard that vaccines traditionally take many years to develop, and yet these vaccines were made available very quickly. This created worry about long-term effects not seen in such short studies,” says Haythe. 

A few factors allowed the vaccine to be available so quickly:

  • The pandemic led to global need and cooperation in developing the vaccine.
  • COVID-19 is not the first coronavirus researchers have encountered.
  • Emergency authorization brought the vaccine to the public quicker but still safely.

How Vaccine Hesitancy Has Changed Among Different Groups

While completed less than a month before the March report’s collection began, the responses have changed significantly since February’s report. For instance, vaccine hesitancy has become almost identical between men and women. Compared to the February report, it dropped from 34% to 29% in men and from 38% to 30% in women. However, vaccine resistance is higher in women at 27% and men at 18%.

As for healthcare workers, a few factors highlight a divide. Across education levels, for instance, vaccine hesitancy remains relatively steady — increasing from 13% with a graduate degree to 16% with high school or less — but vaccine resistance varies widely. Only 11% of people with a graduate degree and 14% with a bachelor’s degree say they wouldn’t get the vaccine.

The rate jumps to 23% for people with some college and to 33% for people with a high school education or less. Healthcare workers with a graduate degree have also received about four times the amount of vaccines than their high school or less counterparts.

The same trend reveals itself when healthcare workers are divided by income level. The difference in vaccine hesitancy between healthcare workers making over $150,000 and those making under $25,000 is only a few percent. However, only 13% of those making over $150,000 say they would not get the vaccine, compared to 32% of those under $25,000.

Suzi Francis, manager of ambulatory pharmacy for St. Elizabeth Healthcare

Remember that when you get the vaccine, you’re not only protecting yourself — you’re protecting others around you, including those who might have compromised immune systems.

— Suzi Francis, manager of ambulatory pharmacy for St. Elizabeth Healthcare

The desire to get vaccinated as soon as possible is relatively similar across race and ethnicity, but vaccine hesitancy and resistance are very varied. Only 8% of Asian American healthcare workers said they would get the vaccine after most people they know, but the same was true for 24% of African Americans, 18% of Hispanic people, and 13% of white people.

The discrepancy is similar for vaccine resistance at 6% of Asian Americans, 23% of white people, 26% of Hispanic people, and 29% of African Americans. Vaccine hesitancy decreased for every group except Hispanic people, which increased from 32% to 35% since February.

As for political parties, since the February report, vaccine hesitancy decreased from 35% to 26% among Republican healthcare workers, 36% to 29% among Democrats, and 42% to 31% for Independents.

What To Do If You Or Someone You Know Is Hesitant About The Vaccine

Researchers estimate at least 80% of people will need to have the vaccine to create herd immunity and limit social distancing measures. Vaccine hesitancy and resistance need to drop to achieve this.

If you are hesitant about receiving the COVID-19 vaccine, read reputable sources about its safety. “I recommend that everyone who is apprehensive researches the vaccine, its rigorous testing, and how it will benefit our communities,” says Francis. “Getting the vaccine is the most effective way of keeping people from becoming infected with COVID-19. And, if you catch COVID-19 after receiving the vaccine, it will likely prevent you from becoming seriously ill.” 

 Show this same information to apprehensive loved ones. “Try to reassure your loved ones that the vaccine is safe and give examples of people they know who have been vaccinated,” says Haythe. 

If research doesn’t work, Haythe recommends discussing the personally severe consequences of not getting the vaccine and the incredible benefits of doing so. “In addition, it's important to remind them just how lethal COVID-19 can be and how even ‘mild’ cases may have long-term complications we don't yet understand. Finally, it always helps to remind them that they will be able to do more and see more friends and family safely and without worry once they are vaccinated.”

What This Means For You

The world can only safely open back up if most people receive their COVID-19 vaccine when eligible. “Remember that when you get the vaccine, you’re not only protecting yourself — you’re protecting others around you, including those who might have compromised immune systems,” says Francis. 

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Article Sources
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  1. REPORT #47:UPDATE ON COVID-19 VACCINE ATTITUDES AMONG HEALTHCARE WORKERS. The COVID States Project. Published March 22, 2021. Accessed April 1, 2021.

  2. The COVID States Project #40: COVID-19 vaccine attitudes among healthcare workers. The COVID States Project. Published January 19, 2020. Accessed April 1, 2021.

  3. Iacobucci G. Covid-19: No evidence that vaccines can affect fertility, says new guidance. BMJ. 2021;372:n509. DOI: 10.1136/bmj.n509.

  4. COVID-19 Vaccine Key to Reaching 'Herd Immunity'. Missouri University Health Care. https://www.muhealth.org/our-stories/covid-19-vaccine-key-reaching-herd-immunity.