News Briefs Archive

Survey Findings: What Are the Unvaccinated Waiting For?

July 21, 2021

The African American Research Collaborative (AARC) and The Commonwealth Fund released findings from a nationwide poll of more than 12,000 Americans on COVID-19 vaccine hesitancy showing more than half of unvaccinated Americans would prefer to get a COVID-19 vaccination at their doctor’s office.

This location preference was between three and five times higher among unvaccinated Americans than many current strategies, including vaccinating people at retail pharmacies or drug stores, community health centers, clinics set up by local governments, drive-up clinics and large public vaccination sites.

“This poll breaks new ground in three ways. It is large enough to let us see through Americans’ differences to find the messages that resonate with unique groups. Second, it identifies that to get the remaining unvaccinated Americans vaccinated, we need to let them get the shot at their personal doctor’s office, just like other vaccines,” said Henry Fernandez, CEO of AARC. “And third, we need to focus our messaging on how your getting the shot helps others, especially the ones you love, our senior citizens and local businesses. It would be beautiful if, in the end, we get past this pandemic by focusing on our love for one another.”

The poll has the largest sample of African Americans, Latinos, Asian Americans, Pacific Islanders and Native Americans of any study of COVID-19 vaccine uptake to date. Its questions aimed to find out how Americans, especially harder to reach people, rural Americans, people of color, and the unvaccinated, are currently thinking about the COVID-19 vaccine, their concerns, and how they might be addressed. Additional key findings include:

• One out of three Americans who expressed some hesitancy to getting a COVID-19 vaccine would prefer to hear from their doctor, outranking friends and family who have been vaccinated, local hospitals, religious leaders, elected officials, celebrities and athletes.

• Nearly one-third of parents say they will not sign their child up for a COVID-19 vaccination when it becomes available. Fewer than six percent of parents who are very hesitant to get a COVID-19 vaccine for themselves plan to sign up their children for a COVID-19 vaccine. More than half of parents do not believe there has been enough research done with children to ensure the vaccine is safe, and about 40 percent of parents are concerned about side effects and lasting health problems for their children from the COVID-19 vaccine.

• Nearly one-third of unvaccinated Black Americans and one-fifth of unvaccinated Native Americans who expressed some degree of vaccine hesitancy say the discrimination their communities have faced within the healthcare system makes it hard to trust COVID-19 vaccines are safe and effective.

• Nearly three out of five unvaccinated Americans have heard the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine is unsafe and can create blood clots. Most who have heard about this issue say it makes them less likely to get any COVID-19 vaccine, which shows a strong spillover effect this news has had on vaccine uptake.

• Nearly half of Americans who expressed some hesitancy about COVID-19 vaccination say the potential of opening businesses and schools makes them more likely to get vaccinated.

“These findings underscore the direct connection between the discrimination people of color face in our health system and their level of trust in it,” said Laurie Zephyrin, M.D., vice president for Advancing Health System Equity at The Commonwealth Fund. “Creating a truly equitable health system requires investments that tackle unequal treatment, experiences and outcomes and access to primary care providers in communities that not only provide high-quality care but engender trust.”

 “We know that there is a pervasive and unjust difference in how communities of color experience the medical system. This bias creates drastic disparities in health outcomes, and leads to an earned distrust of healthcare and healthcare practices,” said Marcella Nunez-Smith, MD, MHS, the inaugural associate dean for health equity research and founding director of the Equity Research and Innovation Center (ERIC) at the Yale School of Medicine. “This is why we have to partner with trusted messengers in communities, and make spaces to hear and respond to the rightful concerns of those that have not always been treated with dignity by scientific, medical and political institutions.”

“Many parents from all these racial and ethnic groups are hesitant about COVID-19 vaccines for their children,” said Peter Szilagyi, MD, MPH, executive vice-chair and vice-chair for research for the UCLA Department of Pediatrics.“Since the survey also shows that most parents trust their child’s doctors about COVID vaccination for children, it is critical for parents to talk to their child’s doctor about COVID-19 vaccine.”

“Public trust is a critical component of public health, and that’s especially true in America’s small towns and rural communities. If we’re going to truly beat this virus we need to empower and equip local, trusted messengers who represent the true diversity of rural America—where one in five residents are people of color—with the tools they need to reach their communities,” said Matt Hildreth, executive director of “We also need to ensure that all rural people have access to local healthcare facilities because we know, thanks to these findings, that rural people want to get the vaccine in their doctor’s office so that they can keep friends and family safe and be able to spend more time with their loved ones.”

The poll was funded by The Commonwealth Fund with additional support from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the W.K. Kellogg Foundation. The full array of data can be viewed on the COVID-19 Hesitancy Poll website at The lead pollsters for the COVID-19 Vaccine Hesitancy Poll were AARC and BSP Research.

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