Poll Shows Big Shift in High-Risk Older Adults' Attitudes Toward COVID-19 Vaccination

March 16, 2021
Jill Murphy, Associate Editor

A follow-up poll from the University of Michigan (U-M) found that 71% of people in their 50s, 60s, and 70s are now ready to get vaccinated against COVID-19 when a dose becomes available to them.

A follow-up poll from the University of Michigan (U-M) found that 71% of people in their 50s, 60s, and 70s are now ready to get vaccinated against COVID-19 when a dose becomes available to them or had already gotten vaccinated by the time they were polled in late January, up from 58% in October.

In addition, 3 groups of older adults with especially high risk of severe COVID-19 (Blacks, Hispanics, and people in fair or poor health) had even bigger jumps in vaccine receptiveness between October and late January.

The poll shows a 20-point jump in just 4 months in the percentage of Black respondents who said they would likely get vaccinated, and an 18-point jump for Hispanic older adults. Meanwhile, the jump for white respondents in that time was 9 points, according to the survey.

Individuals who said their health was fair or poor, or likely including many with chronic conditions that can increase their risk of serious illness if they catch COVID-19, had an 11-point jump in likelihood of getting vaccinated. However, they were still less likely to want to get vaccinated than those in better health.

By late January, 60% of black respondents, 69% of Hispanic respondents, and 62% of those in fair or poor health, said they were very likely or somewhat likely to get vaccinated, or had already gotten at least 1 dose. Among all white respondents, regardless of health status, it was 72%.

The data come from the National Poll on Healthy Aging, based at U-M’s Institute for Healthcare Policy and Innovation with support from AARP and Michigan Medicine, U-M’s academic medical center.

“This is incredibly encouraging, given the amount of hesitancy we saw in our poll from late fall,” said Preeti Malani, MD, the poll’s director and a professor of infectious diseases at U-M, in a press release. “But these new data still reveal gaps in attitudes about COVID-19 vaccination between racial and ethnic groups. We hope this new knowledge will help the various groups doing education and outreach tailor their approach so they can address questions, concerns and reasons for vaccine hesitancy.”

The poll asked older adults in both of its releases the question, “Assuming no cost to you, when a COVID vaccine is available, how likely are you to get it?”

However, respondents in January had the additional option to answer that they had already been vaccinated.

The percentage of all respondents who were most enthusiastic about vaccination, defined as those who said they were “very likely” to get the vaccine, jumped 20 percentage points, from 33% in October to 53% in January.

The poll revealed that the 50 years and older age group may need to be persuaded more than those in the 65 years of age and older group, whereas the younger half of the poll group had an 11-point rise in likelihood of vaccination, compared with the 14-point rise in the older group, according to the press release.

In October 2020, the poll showed that individuals who have higher household incomes or more education were also more likely to report they would get a COVID-19 vaccine.

The National Poll on Healthy Aging results are based on responses from a nationally representative sample of adults between 50 and 80 years of age who answered a wide range of questions online. The October poll included 1553 respondents, whereas the January poll included 2022 respondents.

REFERENCE

Big shift seen in high-risk older adults’ attitudes toward COVID-19 vaccination. University of Michigan Institute for Healthcare Policy and Innovation. https://ihpi.umich.edu/news/big-shift-seen-high-risk-older-adults-attitudes-toward-covid-19-vaccination. Published March 9, 2021. Accessed March 11, 2021.