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Vaccine Monitor: Some Who Were Hesitant to Get a Vaccine in January Say They Changed Their Mind Because of Family, Friends and Their Personal Doctors

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A new KFF COVID-19 Vaccine Monitor report finds that people who were initially hesitant to get a vaccine in January but ultimately did so often say that family, friends and their personal doctors helped change their minds.

The report features a second round of interviews with a nationally representative sample of adults six months after they first shared their vaccine intentions in January, early in the nation’s vaccine distribution effort. The new survey assesses whether or not they got a COVID-19 vaccine, the reasons behind their choice, and how they feel about their decision.

Half initially told us that they planned on getting vaccinated as soon as possible or had already received at least one dose. Now two-thirds say have been vaccinated, including the vast majority (92%) of those who had planned to get vaccinated “as soon as possible” in January, along with slightly more than half (54%) of those who wanted to “wait and see.” At the same time, three quarters (76%) of those who previously said they would get vaccinated “only if required” or would “definitely not” get a COVID-19 vaccine remain unvaccinated.

Importantly, one in five (21%) of all adults are now vaccinated after expressing some level of hesitation in January, saying then that they planned on waiting to get vaccinated, would only get it if required, or would definitely not get vaccinated. Many in this group cite friends, family members, and their personal doctors as influencing their decision to get a vaccine. This includes seeing friends and family members get vaccinated without serious side effects (25%), pressure from friends and family (8%), being able to safely visit family members (3%), and conversations with their personal doctors (11%). Another one in ten (9%) say that easing of restrictions for vaccinated people was a factor.


In their own words: What did you learn or hear that persuaded you to get vaccinated?

“Not many side effects and others have been vaccinated” – 21 year old, male, white, independent, Georgia (“wait and see” in January)

“That it was clearly safe. No one was dying.” – 32 year old, male, white, Republican, South Carolina (“wait and see” in January)

“Five generations of our family are getting together in one week from now” – 68 year old, male, white, Democrat, California (“wait and see” in January)

“My Ob/Gyn advised it was safe to take while pregnant and/or trying to conceive and there are studies showing women who get pregnant that caught COVID had more hematological problems during and after birth” – 32 year old, female, white, independent, Alabama (“wait and see” in January)

In fact, some vaccinated adults cite protecting or being able to see their friends and family members as the main reason why they decided to get vaccinated. And two-thirds (65%) say they have personally tried to persuade friends and family members to get a shot.

One-third of all adults remain unvaccinated, including 16% of adults who had previously said they planned on getting vaccinated “as soon as possible” or wanted to “wait and see” see before getting a vaccine. When asked why they changed their minds, many cite the side effects of the vaccine as a key reason.


In their own words: What changed your mind?

“What’s changed my mind is people telling me how sick they got after they received the vaccination. I really don’t want to be sick from a vaccination so I kind of lost interest” – 54 year old, male, white, Republican, California (“ASAP” in January)

“I have allergies considering the possible risks. The risks in my opinion are not a chance I’m willing to take.” – 18 year old, male, Hispanic, Democrat, Florida (“ASAP” in January)

“My husband got the vaccine and he experienced a lot of side effects. I usually end of having some [or] all the listed side effects” – 42 year old, female, Hispanic, independent, California (“wait and see” in January)

Available through the Monitor’s online dashboard, the new report also quotes the open-ended responses given by many of those surveyed reflecting the diversity of their views and experiences related to their views and decision around vaccination.

The KFF COVID-19 Vaccine Monitor is an ongoing research project tracking the public’s attitudes and experiences with COVID-19 vaccinations. Using a combination of surveys and qualitative research, this project tracks the dynamic nature of public opinion as vaccine development and distribution unfold, including vaccine confidence and hesitancy, trusted messengers and messages, as well as the public’s experiences with vaccination.

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