COLUMBUS, Ohio — Nearly seven in 10 Americans say they would take a COVID-19 vaccine when it becomes available, according to a new survey. While it’s an encouraging sign during the coronavirus pandemic, researchers find the biggest reasons some people won’t participate come down to the price and their politics.
The Ohio State University says 69 percent of their poll “definitely” or “probably” will get vaccinated once a treatment reaches the market. Of the 2,006 respondents, 17 percent are “not sure” about getting a shot and 14 are not willing to be vaccinated. The poll was conducted in May.
While there are still Americans on the fence about a coronavirus vaccine, OSU researchers say the severity of the pandemic is creating much more interest than doctors usually see during flu season.
“The interest here is higher than what we typically see for flu vaccine and other vaccines where there is a strong public health need for widespread protection,” study leader Paul Reiter says in a university release.
The associate professor of health behavior and health promotion adds that Americans at greater risk for contracting COVID-19 say they’re more willing to opt for a potential vaccine. This is especially true for older respondents, as 76 percent of Americans over 65 tell the survey they’ll be getting a vaccine.
“If someone perceives themselves to be at a higher risk of a health issue, that’s going to make them more likely to engage in the health behavior, in this case vaccination,” Reiter explains.
What would keep people away from the COVID vaccine?
The survey reports the biggest problem that may keep many people in the U.S. away from a vaccine is the price. Just 35 percent of respondents say they would get a vaccine if it costs more than $50. That number plummets to just 11 percent if a possible vaccine hits the market at $200 or more.
Researchers find the out-of-pocket cost is especially problematic for Americans living without health insurance. Only 50 percent of respondents currently without a plan say they’d get a vaccine.
The Ohio team is also expressing concern over the disproportionate number of Black respondents opting to avoid a treatment. Only 55 percent of African-Americans in the survey say they’re willing to get a vaccine. Seven in 10 white respondents and 74 percent of Latino-Americans say they’ll be getting a shot to treat COVID-19.
“Given the disproportionate burden of COVID-19 infection and death among Black Americans, it’s concerning to see that Black survey participants had less interest in a vaccine,” Reiter adds. “I think there are likely several factors at play, including access to care and trust in health care and potential socioeconomic barriers.”
Will political ideology really affect your decision?
The survey also finds your decision to get a vaccine may also come down to your political leanings. Respondents who identify as more liberal (79%) are more likely to get a coronavirus vaccination than conservative Americans (59%). Right along the survey average, 70 percent of moderates say they’ll take the vaccine.
“COVID-19 has turned into a political issue in many cases, and I think that some people just pick their side based on that, without much research,” the OSU researcher says. “We’ve seen that with mask wearing. It’s a promising public health intervention, but it’s turned into a political powder keg.”
The study suggests lawmakers need to work on communicating to the public how important a vaccine may be. The team believes public opinion has not changed much in the four months since their poll and leaving 30 percent of the U.S. unvaccinated may damage the drug’s effectiveness.
“You hear a lot of talk of vaccination and the benefits of herd immunity, the idea that when enough people have resistance to a virus it reduces the threat to the entire population. At 70%, we may or may not get there,” Reiter warns.
“As we get closer to a vaccine becoming available, factors that could further affect the public’s interest will include cost and the number of doses required.”
The findings appear in the journal Vaccine.