Americans more eager to get coronavirus vaccine

Reluctance to take coronavirus vaccine lessens following the 2020 presidential election and latest breakthroughs from Pfizer and Moderna.

The author(s)
  • Catherine Morris Data Journalist, US, Public Affairs
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What you need to know:

  • With emergency FDA approval pending for both the Pfizer and Moderna coronavirus vaccines, close to seven in ten Americans say they would be willing to get an approved, vetted vaccine.
  • Views on vaccines vary substantially across racial and ethnic lines, as well as by partisan affiliation. Republicans and Black Americans are least open to getting a vaccine.
  • News consumption also plays a role in how vaccines are perceived. Post-election data from the Axios-Ipsos Coronavirus Index suggests that Americans most skeptical about the vaccine may be migrating away from FOX News to alternative news sources, signaling a possible sea change in patterns of news consumption more broadly.

Deep dive:

Americans are becoming more open to taking a future vaccine as fears about the virus tick upwards. Some signs of reluctance still linger, however. While the majority of Americans are willing to take a vaccine that has been vetted by pharmaceutical companies, approved by public health officials or has been on the market for a few months, just under half are willing to take a first-generation version.

Vaccine questions

But even just shy of half marks an improvement from September through early November, when significant doubts about a first-generation versions emerged as a prospective vaccine became the subject of political disputes. Following the election and the latest breakthroughs from Pfizer and Moderna, Americans are once again growing more open to the first-generation version, with the number of Americans willing to get one climbing back up to August levels.

Across racial and ethnic lines, skepticism about the vaccine is most predominant among Black Americans, according to the Axios-Ipsos Coronavirus Index, while white and Hispanic Americans are approximately on par. Just 50% of Black Americans, who along with Hispanic Americans, have experienced disproportionately poor health outcomes from the virus, say they would be open to getting a COVID-19 vaccine even after it has been on the market for a few months.

Vaccine views race ethnicity

Partisanship also has a considerable influence on how Americans perceive the coronavirus vaccine, with Democrats driving interest in getting one. While a majority on both sides of the aisle would take a vaccine that pharmaceutical companies say is 90% effective, there is a 22-point gap between Republicans and Democrats on this question.

There is an even greater gap (35-points) across the parties on getting a vaccine taken by former presidents Obama, Bush and Clinton, who recently volunteered to get the coronavirus vaccine on camera to reassure the public about its safety. In this scenario, just 43% of Republicans say they would get the same vaccine, underscoring just how reactive people can become when politics mix with science.

Partisan views on vaccine

Views on the coronavirus vaccine also diverge considerably by news consumption – which often has a significant cross-over with party affiliation. Eight in ten Americans who gravitate towards major, mainstream networks and newspapers are most likely to saw they would get a coronavirus vaccine once it has been on the market for a few months or has otherwise been approved by public health officials or pharma.

There is little difference, however, between Americans who gravitate towards these sources – a readership and viewership that tends to skew centrist or Democratic – and FOX News viewers, who trend Republican, on the question of a first-generation vaccine. Around six in ten who subscribe to these particular channels say they would get a first-generation coronavirus vaccine as soon as it is available.

News consumption

Meanwhile, Americans who turn to social media, local, or “none of these” (ie., none of the other options listed in the survey) as their primary source of news are much less open to the vaccine, particularly one that has not been in circulation for a few months. Just 27% of Americans who do not get their news from any of the major networks or social media would get a first-generation vaccine, and just 42% would get one if public health officials said it was safe.

These numbers suggest a possible departure from pandemic norms. Throughout the summer and fall, Axios-Ipsos Coronavirus Index data found that FOX News viewers were less concerned about the virus and more likely to subscribe to conspiracy theories about the virus.

With an FDA-approved vaccine likely to soon become a reality, Americans are more eager to get one again. But even these improvements leave three in ten Americans vaccine skeptics, speaking to the broader challenges public health officials and medical professionals may face when trying to get widespread buy-in once the vaccine is available.

The author(s)
  • Catherine Morris Data Journalist, US, Public Affairs

Society