Americans’ Trust in Doctors Offers Path Forward for an Effective Vaccine Rollout

Doctors emerged as some of the most trusted figures nationally from the pandemic. What are the implications for the healthcare industry at large?

The author(s)

  • Mahak Kumari Research Analyst
  • Seth Messinger Research Scientist, US, Public Affairs
  • Catherine Morris Data Journalist
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The COVID-19 pandemic had an immediate and positive impact on issues of trust in healthcare providers in the U.S. There were spontaneous and planned demonstrations in support of first responders and healthcare workers, indicating a surge of trust emerging from the crisis.

Several surveys Ipsos conducted over the last few months show how enduring this trust is, even as faith in other core institutions wavered over the course of the pandemic. According to a December NPR/Ipsos survey, 85% of Americans say that they hold a “great deal” or “a fair amount” of trust in their personal doctors. This puts healthcare providers at the top of a list that includes faith and spiritual leaders, Dr. Anthony Fauci, President Biden and former President Donald Trump.

Just as telling about Americans’ trust in medical professionals is how likely Americans were to say they would take a COVID-19 vaccine prior to it becoming available. In September 2020, before the vaccines officially came online, just 37% of Americans said they were likely to get a shot as soon as it became available. However, if their doctors told them to, it was another matter entirely. Six in ten (62%) Americans said they would be likely to take the vaccine if their own doctors told them it was safe, compared to 54% who said they would get the vaccine if the FDA endorsed it, and 56% who said they would get it if the cost was covered by insurance.

Americans have grown less wary of the vaccine now that the early versions have received FDA authorizations and as the vaccine rollout picks up pace. However, while 53% now say they either have received the vaccine or would get it as soon as it became available to them, 18% say they would not get it at all. The importance of leveraging trust to defeat the virus cannot be overstated. Experts put the exact percentage who need to be vaccinated to achieve herd immunity at anywhere from 70% to 90% of the population. At least some of the skeptics will need to be reassured that the vaccine is safe before herd immunity is possible.

Given the severity of the current wave of the COVID-19 pandemic in the U.S., and the troubles in rolling out the available vaccines, healthcare providers and professionals are at risk of experiencing lowered trust from the communities they serve. Despite these challenges, there are still opportunities for healthcare providers and professionals to build back trust with the public, namely by cultivating effective communication at all levels of the industry with patients and caregivers.

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The author(s)

  • Mahak Kumari Research Analyst
  • Seth Messinger Research Scientist, US, Public Affairs
  • Catherine Morris Data Journalist

Society