The end might be in sight for the public health crisis caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, with the FDA’s recent authorization of Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine and a forthcoming approval of Moderna’s vaccine appearing imminent. Unfortunately, the distribution and success of these vaccines have been compounded by widespread misinformation and an ongoing culture of skepticism toward vaccines' safety and efficacy, one so prevalent that the World Health Organization last year named vaccine hesitancy as one of the top 10 health threats currently facing the world.
A recent survey by multichannel demand generation provider SYKES, however, shines a light on how healthcare communications professionals might find ways to manage misinformation and build trust among those who still harbor mistrust toward vaccines.
While nearly two-thirds of Americans surveyed (63 percent) reported that they plan on getting the COVID-19 vaccine once it’s made available, more than a third (37 percent) indicated they would not, according to the survey, despite recent vaccine trial data showing that the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines are more than 90 percent effective.
|Circumstances that might convince anti-vaxxers to take the COVID-19 vaccine.|
More than a third (38 percent) of respondents said they’re worried about vaccines’ safety and an additional quarter (26 percent) said they’re worried about their effectiveness in preventing COVID-19. Americans also said they’re concerned about the vaccines’ cost (13 percent) as well as their effect on any underlying health issues (12 percent).
Despite their hesitations, however, the survey discovered a silver lining among Americans hesitant to take a vaccine: nearly a quarter (22 percent) of vaccine skeptics admitted they might take the COVID-19 vaccine if people whom they know take it and develop no issues as a result.
Moreover, an additional 19 percent of vaccine skeptics said they’d take the COVID-19 vaccine if it’s required for work or international travel, and 14 percent said they’d take it if it was free or affordable. Nine percent said they’d take a vaccine if it meant an easing of mask requirements or social distancing measures.
On the other hand, nearly one in five vaccine skeptics (19 percent) said nothing could convince them to take a COVID-19 vaccine because they don’t believe vaccines are safe. An additional two percent said their religion prohibits them from taking vaccines.
Among those who reported they wouldn’t be getting a COVID-19 vaccine, a majority (18 percent) said they get most of their COVID-related news from local TV programming. This was followed by local radio news (17 percent), social media (15 percent), online searches (12 percent) and national cable TV (11 percent). Local and national newspapers bottomed out the list (both at five percent, which was about the same percentage of those who said they aren’t consuming any COVID-related news at all).
Nearly three-quarters (72 percent) of those who said they wouldn’t be getting a COVID-19 vaccine said they similarly didn’t get a flu shot this year.
Among all the respondents surveyed in the SYKES report, a majority (54 percent) believe employers should require non-remote employees to receive a COVID-19 vaccine, and also think K–12 public schools (59 percent) and colleges/universities (61 percent) should require all students to receive a COVID-19 vaccine.
More than half of all respondents (58 percent) also believe the U.S. government should be responsible for footing the bill for the COVID-19 vaccine.
SYKES report, “American Perceptions of COVID-19 Vaccines,” surveyed 2,000 U.S. adults in November. Surveys were conducted using third-party survey platform Pollfish.