Motivators for and Barriers to Getting Vaccinated Against COVID-19
by Audrey Guinn, Ph.D.
According to the CDC, rollout of the vaccine began in December 2020. As of May 20th, approximately 38% of the U.S. population has been fully vaccinated and about 48% of the population has had at least one dose. However, that leaves a little over 50% of the population unvaccinated.There are many possible reasons for getting vaccinated. Some reasons may be based on beliefs about the vaccine – that it will protect against getting COVID-19, that it will reduce the spread of the virus, or that things will be able to go back to normal. Other reasons for getting vaccinated may be based on fears and concerns about the virus or knowing someone who has contracted it or died from it. Some reasons for not getting vaccinated are due to beliefs about the vaccine lacking efficacy or having unknown side effects.
While we did not assess all possible reasons for getting vaccinated (or not), using the data collected in Decision Analyst’s monthly “Consumer Reactions to COVID-19” tracker, we did examine what impact, if any, beliefs about COVID-19 and its vaccine have on the decision to get vaccinated1.
What Beliefs Motivate People to Get Vaccinated? i
The most important motivators of vaccination are positive beliefs about the vaccine, such as:
- Being vaccinated shows that you care about others.
- Getting vaccinated is the right thing to do.
- The vaccine will reduce the likelihood of contracting COVID-19.
- Believing that every eligible person should get vaccinated.
Positive beliefs about social distancing and wearing a mask also significantly predicted and contributed to the likelihood of getting vaccinated. Likewise, knowing someone who has contracted COVID-19 and knowing someone who has died from the virus also increased the likelihood of getting vaccinated. The graph below shows the significant predictors that increase the likelihood of getting the vaccine and their percentage importance. Together, the attributes in the graph account for and sum to 37% of the importance to getting vaccinated2.
What Beliefs Are Barriers to Getting Vaccinated?
The largest barriers to vaccination are the beliefs that the vaccine:
- Testing process was rushed/corners were cut.
- Is dangerous.
- Doesn’t provide enough of a guarantee that you won’t get the virus.
- Is something you should be afraid of.
Other negative vaccine beliefs, such as the vaccine having severe/unknown side effects, only people with underlying conditions needing the vaccine, and the vaccine interfering with fertility, also decrease the likelihood of getting vaccinated. Lastly, negative beliefs regarding the government contribute to the decision as well. Beliefs such as the vaccine being used to track individuals, COVID-19 being released on purpose, and the government using COVID-19 to control the population are also barriers to getting vaccinated. The graph below shows the significant barriers that decrease the likelihood of getting vaccinated and their percentage importance. Together, the attributes in the graph account for and sum to 29% of the importance to NOT getting vaccinated3.
Beliefs play an important role in the decision to get the COVID-19 vaccine. Positive beliefs about the vaccine, beliefs that being vaccinated is morally correct, beliefs around the usefulness of social distancing and masking, and knowing someone with COVID-19 or who has died from it, all contribute positively to the likelihood that the individual will become vaccinated. Alternatively, negative beliefs about the vaccine, beliefs that the government is using COVID-19 to control the population, or that COVID was released on purpose are barriers to becoming vaccinated.
If the goal is to achieve higher levels of vaccination, communications that will assuage negative beliefs and expand positive attitudes are key. However, this would not be an easy task to undertake. As more evidence is presented as to the vaccine’s safety and efficacy, some negative attitudes and beliefs may subside. Time will tell.
Footnote 1: Data collection for the 17th wave of this tracker began 4/15/2021 and ended 4/19/2021.
Footnote 2: This means that 63% of the importance to getting vaccinated is accounted for by attributes that we did not measure (such as but not limited to demographics, proximity to vaccine location, physical ability to get vaccinated). All predictors shown in the chart are significant at the 95% confidence level.
Footnote 3: This means that 71% of the importance to NOT getting vaccinated is accounted for by situations or attributes that we did not measure (such as but not limited to demographics, fears about needles, allergies to the vaccine, physical ability to get vaccinated). All predictors shown in the chart are significant at the 95% confidence level.
Footnote i: A Relative Weights analysis was conducted to identify the most important beliefs impacting the vaccination decision. Relative Weights analysis is favored by both academic researchers as well as marketing researchers. It returns the percentage each variable is contributing to the overall variance explained in the regression equation. In other words, it helps researchers determine the most important variables contributing to the outcome (in this case, the likelihood to become vaccinated). We defined being vaccinated as 1 (those who have received at least one dose of the vaccine) and 0 (those who have not received any dose). For a full discussion of Relative Weights, see https://relativeimportance.davidson.edu/Tonidandel&LeBreton(2011)_JBP_Relative%20Weights.pdf.
About the Author
Audrey Guinn, Ph.D. (firstname.lastname@example.org) is a Statistical Analyst in the Advanced Analytics Group at Decision Analyst. She may be reached at 1-800-262-5974 or 1-817-640-6166.
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