Young adults are less likely to be vaccinated against Covid-19 than other age groups—and nearly 25% of those between 18 and 39 said they probably or definitely won't get vaccinated, according to data from CDC.
Who is (and isn't) getting vaccinated?
According to CDC data, of those U.S. residents who have received at least one dose of a Covid-19 vaccine, 28% are between the ages of 18 and 39 while 54.3% are 50 years old or older.
In a report from CDC, researchers analyzed vaccination data submitted by states between April 19 and May 22. The researchers found that, if current vaccination trends continue among those ages 18-29, just 58% of that age group will be vaccinated by late August, compared with 95% of those ages 65 and older.
As the researchers explained, this disparity reflects declining shares of people across all age groups starting their vaccinations each week. Those numbers have been slowing since eligibility expanded to all adults in April—and the rates of vaccine initiation among younger age groups has never caught up to the peak rate among older age groups.
Meanwhile, of those who have received at least one dose of a vaccine, 52.9% are female and 47.1% are male.
And of those who have received at least one dose of a vaccine, 60.2% are non-Hispanic white while 15.1% are Hispanic/Latino and 9.1% are non-Hispanic Black.
Why young adults aren't getting vaccinated
A separate CDC Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, which surveyed 2,726 Americans ages 18-39 between March 5 and May 2, found that while 51.8% of respondents were vaccinated or planned to get vaccinated, nearly a quarter—24.9%—of respondents said they "probably or definitely will not get vaccinated."
According to the CDC report, several factors are associated with respondents indicating they will not or likely will not get vaccinated. In addition to being younger, "non-Hispanic Black adults, and those with less education, no insurance, … lower household incomes," and who did not live in metropolitan areas reported the lowest rates of vaccination and intent to get vaccinated, CDC found.
For instance, 72.6% of those who had at least a bachelor's degree said they had been or would get vaccinated, compared with 32.4% of those with less than a high school education. Similarly, 64.2% of adults with the "highest household incomes" said they had been or would get vaccinated, compared with 36.2% of those reporting the lowest household income.
Meanwhile, 51.8% of non-Hispanic white adults said they were or would get vaccinated, compared with 40.1% of non-Hispanic Black adults. And 55% of those living in metropolitan areas said they had been or would get vaccinated, compared with just 35% of those living outside of metropolitan areas.
When asked why they didn't intend to get vaccinated, over half of those who were probably or definitely not getting vaccinated said they were concerned about possible side effects, and more than half said they don't trust Covid-19 vaccines. Meanwhile, over a third said they don't believe they need a vaccine, and just over a quarter said they don't think Covid-19 is that big of a threat.
However, the study also suggested there could be ways to reach those who remain hesitant about vaccination. For instance, among respondents who said they were unsure about or would probably get vaccinated, the survey found that 20% to 40% said they would be more likely to get inoculated if they had more information about the vaccines' safety and efficacy, if they knew it would help prevent the spread of the virus to friends and family, or if it would enable them to resume day-to-day activities.
"The way this pandemic has been framed, essentially what we heard at the beginning, is that if you were older, you're more likely to face severe consequences related to Covid," Rupali Limaye, a researcher studying vaccine use at Johns Hopkins University, said. "I think a lot of younger people were like, 'It's okay if I get it. I'm going to be able to survive it.'"
He added, "What that does point to, in my opinion, is they're being bombarded with misinformation and disinformation. And it's hard to really disentangle and figure out what is real and what is not real" (Anthes, New York Times, 6/21; Coleman, The Hill, 6/21; Johnson, Washington Post, 6/21).