RESEARCH TRIANGLE PARK — RTI International (RTI), a nonprofit research institute, has published findings from a national population survey, issued last April, on willingness to receive a COVID-19 vaccine. At the time, nearly 75% of the nearly 2,300 participants stated they would be willing to get the vaccine if proven safe and effective—today approximately 22% of the U.S. population has been vaccinated. The results, in comparison with current data, show a need for increased action on communication efforts—to reduce vaccine hesitancy—before supply outstrips demand.
Although most Americans were willing to get a vaccine at the time of the survey, the findings indicate that there was less willingness among some populations more vulnerable to COVID-19. At the time, uninsured respondents were nearly 30% less willing and lower income and lower education respondents were also less willing to get vaccinated.
“It is encouraging that most people are willing to get vaccinated, yet there is urgent work that should and could be done to increase willingness to vaccinate in some of the vulnerable populations we surveyed,” said Bridget Kelly, Ph.D., MPH, health communication research scientist at RTI and lead author on the study. “For example, it may not be common knowledge that COVID-19 vaccines are free of charge regardless of insurance status. We need to ensure that information is being communicated to the public, as it may make a real difference in the number who are willing to vaccinate.”
Overall, respondents who perceived COVID-19 as a high threat and risk were more willing to get vaccinated. Other findings indicated that Black respondents were less likely to get a vaccine. Female respondents were slightly less likely than males. Other groups with underlying medical conditions or morbid obesity, which were known higher risk groups at the time, were not more willing to get vaccinated than their lower-risk counterparts.
The researchers noted that health communication messaging paired with strategic audience segmentation could help increase vaccination rates, especially in vulnerable populations.
“As vaccine supply and vaccination capacity continues to increase, the time to develop messaging that can help reduce hesitancy is upon us,” said Dr. Kelly. “The findings from our study provide direction about areas to focus public health planning and communication efforts.”
To read the full study, please click here.