Vaccine hesitancy has been a concern among U.S. public health experts for months. But there is growing evidence that as vaccination coverage increases, many unvaccinated Americans are more comfortable with the idea of getting the injection themselves.
The proportion of adults in the country planning to get vaccinated has risen significantly in recent months, according to one survey released Friday by the Pew Research Center. Sixty-nine percent of the public now plan to get vaccinated – or have already done so – compared to 60 percent who said in November that they intended to pursue it.
However, the issue has become more biased over time. The new poll finds a 27 percentage point political divide, with 83 percent of Democrats saying they plan to get the vaccine or have already received it, compared to just 56 percent of Republicans.
Despite the divisions, the new research reinforces optimism that Americans in general are increasingly open to receiving the vaccine. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, about 54 million people – 16 percent of the population – had received at least one dose of a Covid-19 vaccine as of Thursday.
The survey also notes that 47 percent of black Americans plan to get vaccinated, and 15 percent say they have already been. All in all, that's a sharp increase from the 42 percent who said they wanted to be vaccinated in November.
Becoming Black and Latino people in the United States vaccinated at lower rates, in part because they face obstacles such as language barriers and inadequate access to digital technology, medical facilities and transportation. Mistrust in government officials and doctors also plays a role, experts say, and is fueled by misinformation spread on social media. President Biden has made equality a major focus of his pandemic response, saying he wants pharmacies, mobile vaccination units and community clinics that help disadvantaged communities increase vaccination rates.
In general, those questioned by Pew who say they do not plan to receive the vaccine cite reasons, including concerns about side effects and a feeling that the vaccines were being developed too quickly. Others say they are waiting for more information on how well they are working.
Pew's results are consistent with a survey published last week by the Kaiser Family Foundation, which found hesitation to purchase vaccines among most demographics. That research also revealed a significant political divide, but noted that both Democrats and Republicans were significantly more likely to say they planned to get the vaccine now than they did in December.