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May 16, 2022

Why the number of Americans refusing vaccines hasn't budged

Daily Briefing

    Almost three-fourths of adults in the United States have received at least one shot of a Covid-19 vaccine, but around 1 in 6 adults say they will "definitely not" get vaccinated—a number that has remained fairly consistent since December 2020, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation's (KFF) Covid-19 Vaccine Monitor.

    Vaccination status in the US

    According to the poll, 73% of American adults in February said they had received at least one dose of a Covid-19 vaccine while 1% said they'd get one "as soon as possible," 4% said they wanted to "wait and see," 3% said they would only get one if they were required to, and 16% said they would "definitely not" get a vaccine.

    Since KFF started its poll in December 2020, the percentage of respondents saying they would "definitely not" get vaccinated has remained between 12% and 16%. Meanwhile, the percentage of Americans who have received at least one dose of a vaccine has hovered between 72% and 77% since September 2021.

    Meanwhile, 47% of adults said they have received a booster shot, and roughly half of vaccinated adults who have not received a booster shot said they will get one only if they're required to or said they will "definitely not" get one.

    In addition, 57% of parents with children ages 12 to 17 said their child has been vaccinated while 1% said they will get them vaccinated right away, 8% said they want to "wait and see," 3% said they would only get their child vaccinated if it was required, and 30% said they would "definitely not" vaccinate their child.

    The percentage of vaccinated children ages 5 to 11 is even smaller, KFF found, with 35% of parents saying their child had been vaccinated while 4% said they would vaccinate their child right away, 10% saying they wanted to "wait and see," 11% saying they would only vaccinate their child if it was required, and 36% saying they would "definitely not" vaccinate their child.

    As for parents of children ages 6 months to 4 years, 57% said they don't have enough information about the safety and effectiveness of Covid-19 vaccines, and 39% said the information they've gotten from federal health agencies about vaccines for that age group is confusing. Still, 21% of parents said they'd get their child vaccinated right away once a vaccine is approved for that age group.

    'It's just shocking'

    Liz Hamel, VP and director of public policy and survey research at KFF, said the "size of the group that says they're definitely not getting vaccinated" has been "really consistent" in all of KFF's surveys. "That hasn't shifted in over a year," she said.

    "The ones that have been most likely to say they're definitely not going to get the vaccine have been Republicans and people living in rural areas, as well as white evangelical Christians," Hamel added.

    West Hansen, a social worker in Texas, said his clients are often older people who need assistance with their daily lives, and his job is to let them know what government benefits and services they can receive, including a free Covid-19 vaccine.

    "This recalcitrance towards getting the vaccine flies in the face of the fact that they had family members die of COVID," Hansen said. "They openly say, 'Yes, my brother died of COVID or 'My mom died of COVID,' And they still won't get the vaccine knowing full well that this is a possibility for them."

    Those who refuse to get vaccinated do so for a variety of reasons. Danny Downes, a retired insurance salesman, said, "We just think it's a big government thing where they're trying to control the public." Some claim they feel the vaccine was rushed, and others believe vaccine misinformation, including the notion that the vaccine is a "de-population tool."

    "It's just shocking," Hansen said. "I mean, you're offering a drowning person a hand and they slap it away and they're doubting you can pull 'em to shore. It's very perplexing." (Sparks et al., KFF Covid-19 Vaccine Monitor, 3/1; Burnett, "Shots," NPR, 5/10)

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