Brief Confronting COVID-19 Vaccine Hesitancy among Nonelderly Adults
Findings from the December 2020 Well-Being and Basic Needs Survey
Michael Karpman, Genevieve M. Kenney, Stephen Zuckerman, Dulce Gonzalez, Brigette Courtot
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This study explores vaccine hesitancy among nonelderly adults with new data from the Urban Institute’s Well-Being and Basic Needs Survey (WBNS), a nationally representative survey of more than 7,500 adults ages 18 to 64 fielded December 8 through 30, 2020. We find the following:

  • In December 2020, more than one-third of nonelderly adults reported they would probably not or definitely not get a COVID-19 vaccine. Nearly half of Black adults held this position, compared with about one-third of white and Hispanic/Latinx adults. However, almost two-thirds of Black adults seemed to still be considering their decisions about getting the vaccine.
  • Though Black adults reported greater vaccine hesitancy for well-founded historical reasons, white adults are a larger subgroup of the population and, consequently, constituted 59 percent of all vaccine-hesitant nonelderly adults. 
  • Republicans were nearly twice as likely as Democrats to report they would probably not or definitely not get vaccinated (47 percent versus 25 percent). Differences in hesitancy by political affiliation were largest among white adults, followed by Hispanic/Latinx adults.
  • Most vaccine-hesitant adults were concerned about side effects and vaccine effectiveness. However, more than half (57 percent) thought they did not need the vaccine, and 63 percent of vaccine-hesitant Republicans held this view. Other reasons for being hesitant included worrying the vaccines were not tested enough and lacking trust in the vaccines and their proponents.
  • About half of vaccine-hesitant adults (51 percent) trusted their health care providers for information about the vaccine. However, variation in how adults interact with the health care system across race, ethnicity, and political party affiliation suggests the need for targeted outreach strategies and tailored efforts by health care providers and other trusted community groups to better inform the public about the vaccine.

Though concerns about the COVID-19 vaccines are complex and multifaceted, most vaccine-hesitant adults worried about side effects or wanted more information about long-term health risks. Clear and accurate information delivered through health care providers and other trusted messengers from the community may help those hesitant about the vaccines understand how their risks compare with the much greater risks of illness and death from COVID-19.

Research Areas Health and health care Race and equity
Tags COVID-19 From Safety Net to Solid Ground Racial barriers to accessing the safety net Racial inequities in health
Policy Centers Health Policy Center