Latest poll on COVID-19 vaccine willingness tries to uncover motivating reasons

Posted at 12:40 PM, Nov 23, 2020

Many people across the country are full of hope now that a few COVID-19 vaccines are showing positive results, and they appear to be highly effective. But will Americans be willing to get a shot?

Before Pfizer, Moderna and Astra Zeneca shared their results, Gallup Economics conducted a poll with Franklin-Templeton on what it would take for Americans to be willing to get a COVID-19 vaccine.

"We decided to dig deeper to why people are skeptical of a vaccine and see what pieces of information make a difference in effecting their decision in getting it or not," said Jonathan Rothwell, the Principal Economist at Gallup.

Rothwell says, instead of a traditional Gallup Poll with multiple choice or open-ended questions, the more than 5,000 people surveyed were broken into groups of 200. Each group was asked different questions, proposing various scenarios and hypotheticals about a vaccine.

"'Imagine there's a vaccine that's going to be widely available in either', and then we varied the timing to be either the end of this year or beginning of next year. We varied whether we disclosed if it came after the FDA did three rounds of clinical trials or mention it was FDA approved," said Rothwell.

People were also asked about how effective a vaccine would need to be and who would have to recommend it in order to take it.

"I would say the most surprising thing was telling people the Food and Drug Administration approved the vaccine after three rounds of clinical trials had a slightly negative, not significant effect relative to just telling them it's just FDA approved," said Rothwell.

The results also showed African-Americans and Hispanics were more skeptical of a COVID-19 vaccine and that most people wouldn't resume activities like going to the store without a mask, traveling, or sending their kids back to school just because a COVID-19 vaccine was available.

Dr. Bali Pulendran, a professor of microbiology and immunology at Stanford University, says news about the high efficacy of two different COVID-19 vaccines is extremely positive, but he understands people's hesitations.

"It's understandable because this is unprecedented, no one has developed vaccines at such warp speed. But, again, it has to be driven by the data and what the data shows us now is that at least in the short term, we have these vaccines that are in excess of 90% effective and safe," said Dr. Pulendran.

Dr. Pulendran says just because it took less than a year to develop an effective COVID-19 vaccine, doesn't mean corners were cut to get there.

"The methods used to make these vaccines have gone through the same high rigorous standards that have always been used to make any number of vaccines that have been administered and that have been proven to be safe and effective. By that, I mean they’ve gone through phase one, phase two, phase three human trials, multiple independent bodies have looked at the data," said Dr. Pulendran.

Gallup hopes scientists, doctors and politicians will use the results of this poll to help guide their messaging to the general public so that most people will be encouraged to get a COVID-19 vaccine when it becomes available.