Confidence in COVID-19 vaccines rises as more Americans receive shots, survey says

AP-NORC poll: COVID-19 vaccines are gaining acceptance, but some remain hesitant

Fewer Americans are reluctant to get immunized against the coronavirus and they are growing more confident in the safety and efficacy of COVID-19 vaccines and the quality of their distribution. But those who still hesitate have concerns about whether the vaccines have been properly tested. And 61% of those who are hesitant worry about side effects from the vaccines.

According to a new survey from the Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research at the University of Chicago, 64% of Americans have already been vaccinated. Another 4% say they “definitely will” get the COVID-19, while another 10% “probably will.”

Even as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has relaxed guidelines regarding the wearing of masks outdoors, Americans continue to report high levels of compliance with mask wearing and social distancing. Compliance is particularly high among those who have already been vaccinated.

Democrats are much more likely to be vaccinated, with 79% having already been immunized, compared to 56% of Republicans and 40% of independents.

Despite initial doubts at the start of the vaccine rollout, attitudes toward COVID-19 vaccines are improving as the number of inoculated people in the United States increases. For example, 53% of Americans now believe vaccines are being distributed quickly and safely, compared to just 28% in February and 22% last December.

Bar graph showing increase in COVID-19 vaccine confidence from December 2020 to April 2021
Image courtesy of AP-NORC

Still, among the vaccine hesitant, 76% lack confidence in the safety of the vaccine. Only 7% of those who already are vaccinated lack confidence in the safety of the vaccines.

Among those who are hesitant about getting vaccinated, 55% are very concerned about side effects from the COVID-19 vaccine and an additional 16% are somewhat worried. Of those who have already been vaccinated, only 9% are very concerned about side effects and 16% are somewhat worried.

Worries about family members getting infected with the coronavirus have dipped to levels similar to the beginning of the pandemic. Still, 53% continue to be at least somewhat worried about the virus. Two-thirds of adults who do not intend to get vaccinated have little or no worries about COVID-19 infection.

The CDC has relaxed guidelines regarding the wearing of masks outdoors, but still 78% of Americans report high levels of compliance with mask wearing. Even after controlling for various demographics and party identification, vaccinated people are more likely to take precautions against the coronavirus including wearing masks and social distancing. Unvaccinated people are less likely to take these precautions.

The nationwide poll was conducted April 29-May 3, 2021 using the AmeriSpeak® Panel, the probability-based panel of NORC at the University of Chicago. Online and telephone interviews using landlines and cell phones were conducted with 1,842 adults. The margin of sampling error is +/- 3.2 percentage points.