In the United States, the first shots of the Pfizer/BioNTech were administered on Monday 14 December, and another vaccine, made by Moderna, received emergency authorization from the FDA later on Thursday 17 December. Despite these developments, 8% of Americans still think it is unlikely that a coronavirus vaccine will become available next year, and 17% are unsure. Whereas the 75% of respondents who think it is likely a vaccine will become available represent a clear majority of the sample, it is remarkable that a quarter of Americans do not feel ready to say that a vaccine will become available within the next year despite the fact it is already being administered. It is possible respondents thought the question meant whether a vaccine would be available to themselves specifically, rather than generally available.
Indeed, while the overwhelming majority (87%) of those aged 65 or above say a vaccine is likely to become available, only around half (53%) of those aged 18-24-years-old say that a vaccine is likely to become available within the next year. As we have observed in our polling in other countries, this difference likely reflects the fact that younger adults will be one of the final demographic groups to be given the vaccines, since they are lower on the priority list.
Although Donald Trump’s administration has overseen the initial rollout of the coronavirus vaccine, President- elect Joe Biden will assume control of the process after his inauguration in January. Last week, Biden vowed to get “at least 100 million Covid-19 vaccine shots in the arms of the American people” during his first 100 days in office. In the meantime, President Trump’s administration is rapidly rolling out a $250 million public education campaign to encourage Americans to take the coronavirus vaccine, while Vice President Mike Pence has publicly taken the vaccine to ensure confidence in it. Currently, just 50% of members of the US public say they will get vaccinated if a coronavirus vaccine becomes available at little to no financial cost within the next year. Around a third (31%) of Americans say they will not get vaccinated, and a further fifth (19%) say they don’t know.
Willingness to get a coronavirus vaccine varies significantly depending on political allegiance. Only 43% of those who supported Donald Trump in the 2020 Presidential Election say they will get vaccinated, compared to 63% of Joe Biden voters. Geographic disparities are also evident—while only 43-44% of those in the South and the Mid-West say they will get vaccine, a majority (52%) in the North East and almost two thirds (64%) in the West say they will take a vaccine. Moreover, a clear gender dimension exists: men (59%) are much more willing to be vaccinated than women (40%), a finding which aligns with our polling in Taiwan, and also mirrors results from other surveys.
Relative unwillingness to be inoculated in the United States is likely related to the fact that almost half (49%) agree with a statement agreeing that there is so much public pressure for a coronavirus vaccine to be introduced that the Government, regulators, and pharmaceutical companies will lower the standards for approval.
A majority (50-67%) of respondents aged between 18-54 years old express worry that vaccine standards will be compromised, yet only 33-39% of those aged 55 or above hold this view. Despite the vaccine being approved during the latter days of Donald Trump’s Presidency, a clear majority (54%) of those who supported him in November are worried that standards have been lowered in contrast to 44% of Joe Biden supporters.
Among those who will take a coronavirus vaccine if one becomes available to them within the next year, the clear majority (55%) say they will get vaccinated as soon as possible. A significant minority (39%) say they will wait a few months to see the effects the coronavirus vaccine has on other people, and just 6% will wait almost until the end of the first year.
Meanwhile, a majority (52%) of those who say they will not get vaccinated say that there are no circumstances under which they would get vaccinated. Only a small minority would decide to take a vaccine if more than a few million people in the USA took the vaccine (13%), their doctor advised it was safe (14%), or their employment situation required it (12%).
President-elect Joe Biden is set to receive the coronavirus vaccine within the next few days. Meanwhile President Trump will not be administered a coronavirus vaccine until it is recommended by the White House medical team, as he is still receiving the benefits of the monoclonal antibody cocktail he was given in October. The overwhelming majority (71%) of Americans agree that all members of the Government should take the coronavirus vaccine to ensure public trust in its safety. Support for all members of the Government taking the vaccine is high among both Donald Trump voters (70%), and Joe Biden voters (74%).
Ultimately, the American public is generally confident that a vaccine will become available within the next year. Nevertheless, only half of the public says they will get vaccinated, and a further fifth don’t know. While many remain fervently opposed to taking a vaccine, the vaccination of both Joe Biden and Mike Pence in the coming weeks may help convince those Americans who remain distrustful. For others, it might be the passage of time that will convince them that they, too, can receive the vaccination safely.