Census survey shows many don’t trust COVID vaccines and worry about side effects


January 12, 2022

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported that as of December 14, roughly 85% of adults ages 18 and over in the United States had received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine but 15% remained unvaccinated.

About 42% reported that they “don’t trust the COVID-19 vaccine.”

According to the U.S. Census Bureau’s newest phase of the experimental Household Pulse Survey, those who were unvaccinated against COVID in early December 2021, reported a variety of reasons why.

“Vaccinated” here refers to adults who have received at least one dose of any COVID vaccine and “unvaccinated” refers to adults who have not received any.

Unvaccinated adults who responded to the survey could select more than one reason:

• About half reported that they were concerned about possible side effects of the vaccine.

• About 42% reported that they “don’t trust the COVID-19 vaccine.”

• Less than 10% reported that they hadn’t gotten the vaccine because their doctor had not recommended it.

• About 2% reported not getting the vaccine because of difficulty obtaining it.

The findings are based on the first data from Phase 3.3 of the HPS. These data were collected Dec. 1-Dec. 13.

Unvaccinated adults younger, less educated

Adults who had not received any doses of the COVID vaccine differed from those who had received at least one dose of a COVID vaccine across several measures.

• They were younger, on average, than those who had been vaccinated. Roughly 75% of the unvaccinated were under age 50. Among the vaccinated, less than half were under age 50.

• They had lower levels of education, on average, than those who were vaccinated. Survey respondents who had received at least one dose were twice as likely as the unvaccinated to have a college degree or higher.

• They were much less likely than vaccinated adults to be married (46% vs 56%).

Racial and Ethnic Differences

The share of unvaccinated non-Hispanic White adults was not different from the share who were vaccinated. The same was true for Hispanic adults.

But non-Hispanic Black adults were slightly more represented among the unvaccinated (13%) than the vaccinated (11%), a small but statistically significant difference.

There were notable differences for the Asian population, however: 6% of the vaccinated were non-Hispanic Asian but only 1% of the unvaccinated were non-Hispanic Asian.

Who are the hard-to-reach?

Most of the HPS response options are either about information (“Don’t know if it will protect me”) or trust (“Don’t trust the vaccine”).

However, one involves access: “It’s hard for me to get a COVID-19 vaccine.”

Who are the people in the small subset of adults who responded to the HPS who reported that they had not gotten a vaccine because it was hard to get?

Compared to all HPS respondents, the hard-to-reach:

• Were more likely to be non-White.

• Were less likely to be married (35% of the hard to reach were married compared to 54% of all respondents).

• Had lower levels of education, on average and were more economically disadvantaged; about half of this hard-to-reach population reported difficulty meeting expenses in the week prior to the survey.

• Were much more likely to report a disability. The HPS asks about difficulty seeing, hearing, remembering or walking or climbing stairs. Those who reported being unvaccinated because they had no access to the vaccine were almost twice as likely to report either complete impairment or “a lot of difficulty” with one or more of these measures than the general population.

About the Data

Approximately 1,044,000 housing units were selected from the sampling frame for this HPS collection period and approximately 61,000 respondents answered the online questionnaire. Their responses were the basis of this analysis.

Lindsay M. Monte is a survey statistician in the Census Bureau’s Program Participation and Income Transfers Branch.


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