Only around half of Americans are highly likely to get vaccinated for COVID-19, according to a new survey.
Fifty-three percent of 1,101 Americans polled in early August said they were highly likely to get vaccinated, while 17% were somewhat likely, 21% were not likely and 10% were unsure, according to a Jarrard Phillips Cate & Hancock survey. Fears of potential side effects and the potential of being infected by the virus from the vaccine were the top concerns.
Infectious disease experts estimate that 60% of the community would have to be vaccinated to have herd immunity, where the virus can no longer spread widely. But the level of trust of vaccine efficacy or necessity varied widely among genders, regions and ethnicities, which will have to be addressed in providers' messaging, said David Jarrard, CEO of Jarrard Phillips Cate & Hancock.
Only 44% of women were extremely or very likely to get vaccinated compared to men, according to the survey. A similar share of people in the South shared that sentiment, compared to around 56% of those in the Northeast or Midwest who were extremely or very likely to get a vaccine. More than a third of Blacks said they were extremely or very unlikely to get vaccinated.
Notably, 2 out of 5 healthcare workers were on the fence or unlikely to get a vaccine, Jarrard said.
"That reflects a sense of a lack of safety around vaccines, which is something we have to address," he said.
Caregivers and healthcare institutions will have to be transparent about the criteria they use to evaluate the vaccines and be aware of the tone they strike as well as the medium they use to deliver their guidance, said Isaac Squyers, a partner at Jarrard Phillips Cate & Hancock.
"Because the two leading concerns are around potential side effects and being infected by the vaccine, those issues have to be meaningfully addressed and explained," he said. "Those are legitimate questions."
First responders and frontline healthcare employees, among other essential workers, will likely have priority access to a vaccine when it is available. Providers should be developing criteria to evaluate the vaccine and figure out their data-driven message to employees as well as the general public, Jarrard said.
Around 86% Americans surveyed agreed that doctors, nurses and hospitals should actively educate the general public about COVID-19 and encourage people to take specific actions to protect public health.
Doctors and nurses were cited as the most influential and trusted sources involving critical healthcare issues. Providers should leverage that trust in their vaccination campaigns, Jarrard said.
"We all know that women are key drivers of healthcare consumption; addressing their concerns directly through nurses and physicians is extremely important," he said.
If the initial doses are made available through an emergency use authorization, that may stoke concerns, said Clint Hermes, counsel at Bass, Berry & Sims. That will make cohesive messaging even more important, he said.
"I would very much be talking with my leadership team about how we are going to address staff concerns about safety, particularly if the FDA issues an EUA this fall," Hermes said. "Hospitals have to think about the extent to which they engage staff and how hard they push staff to take a pre-approval COVID vaccine."