Survey Finds COVID-19 Vaccination Hesitancy Remains Unchanged

March 29, 2021
Jill Murphy, Associate Editor

Daily national surveys by Carnegie Mellon University (CMU) show that although COVID-19 vaccine uptake has increased, the proportion of vaccine-hesitant adults has remained unchanged.

Daily national surveys by Carnegie Mellon University (CMU) show that although COVID-19 vaccine uptake has increased, the proportion of vaccine-hesitant adults has remained unchanged. The concerns about adverse effects (AEs) remain high, especially among females, Black adults, and those with an eligible health condition, according to the study.

“Prior research by the CDC has found that Black and Hispanic adults are the least likely to receive the annual flu vaccine each year,” said Alex Reinhart, assistant teaching professor in CMU's Department of Statistics & Data Science and a member of the Delphi Research Group, in a press release. “Our survey suggests that COVID vaccine hesitancy follows a similar trend.”

The survey tracks daily trends in behaviors and attitudes on issues related to COVID-19 at the state and county level, with the report consisting of responses obtained from more than 1.9 million Americans on Facebook between January 10, 2021, and February 27, 2021.

According to the latest survey results, the proportion of adults who were either vaccinated or willing to get vaccinated increased from 72% to 77%, which is largely attributable to a decrease in non-responses on the survey question, and the vaccine hesitancy remained relatively steady at 23%.

The researchers noted that vaccine hesitancy might be improved by addressing concerns about potential or perceived AEs, with 7 out of 10 vaccine-hesitant adults stating that they were concerned about AEs, according to the press release.

“When it comes to increasing vaccine acceptance, our global health partners have emphasized that there is not a one size fits all approach,” said Kang-Xing Jin, Facebook's head of Health, in a press release. “By understanding geographic and demographic trends in vaccine hesitancy with the help of COVID-19 Symptom Survey, paired with public insights from Facebook about how people are talking about vaccines, public health officials can design and deliver tailored messaging campaigns that resonate with specific audiences within states, counties and communities.”

The researchers suggest turning to trusted local health care professionals to spread the word of vaccine safety and importance. Trust in local health care workers among vaccine-hesitant adults increased significantly in January and February, even though trust in other information outlets has remained unchanged or decreased, according to the study authors.

“Hesitancy can reflect existing mistrust of medicine, but uptake of the COVID vaccine, just like uptake of the flu vaccine, can also reflect unequal access to healthcare or unequal availability of convenient places to get vaccinated,” Reinhart said in a press release. “We're looking into this in more detail in newer versions of the survey, which ask specifically about access to the vaccine and specific reasons for not wanting to receive it.”

The COVID-19 Symptom Survey is the largest ongoing COVID-19 data collection effort in the country, gathering more than 50,000 responses daily and more than 18 million responses total since its launch in April 2020, according to the press release.

REFERENCE

COVID-19 vaccination hesitancy remains unchanged. Carnegie Mellon University. Published March 23, 2021. Accessed March 24, 2021. https://www.cmu.edu/dietrich/news/news-stories/2021/march/covidcast-vaccine.html.