Vaccine hesitancy has been a concern among U.S. public health experts for months now. But evidence increasingly suggests that as vaccination rates increase, many unvaccinated Americans are becoming more comfortable with the idea of receiving the shot themselves.
The proportion of adults in the country who intend to get vaccinated has increased significantly over the last several months, according to a survey released Friday by the Pew Research Center. Sixty-nine percent of the public now plans to get vaccinated — or already has — up from 60 percent who said in November that they intended to pursue it.
The issue has become more partisan over time, however. The new survey finds a 27-percentage point political gap, with 83 percent of Democrats saying they plan to get the vaccine or have already received it, compared to just 56 percent of Republicans.
Despite the divides, the new survey bolsters optimism that overall, Americans are increasingly open to receiving the vaccine. About 54 million people — 16 percent of the population — had received at least one dose of a Covid-19 vaccine as of Thursday, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The survey also notes that 47 percent of Black Americans plan to get vaccinated and 15 percent say they already have been. Taken together, that is a sharp increase from the 42 percent who said in November they intended to be vaccinated.
Black and Latino people in the United States are being vaccinated at lower rates in part because they face obstacles like language barriers and inadequate access to digital technology, medical facilities and transportation. Mistrust in government officials and doctors also plays a role, experts say, and is fed by misinformation that is spread on social media. President Biden has made equity a major focus of his pandemic response, saying he wants pharmacies, mobile vaccination units and community clinics that help underserved communities to help increase the pace of vaccinations.
Overall, those surveyed by Pew who say they do not plan to get the vaccine cite reasons including concerns about side effects and a feeling that the vaccines were developed too quickly. Others say they are waiting for more information about how well they work.
The Pew results echo a survey released last week from the Kaiser Family Foundation that found vaccine hesitancy declining among most demographic groups. That survey also found a significant political gap, but noted that both Democrats and Republicans were significantly more likely to say they intended to get the vaccine now than in December.