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One in Three Americans Would Not Get COVID-19 Vaccine

One in Three Americans Would Not Get COVID-19 Vaccine

by Shannon Mullen O'Keefe

Story Highlights

  • 35% of Americans would not get free, FDA-approved vaccine if ready today
  • Republicans less inclined than Democrats to be vaccinated
  • Four in 10 non-White Americans would not get vaccine

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- The coronavirus' toll on the lives of people around the world continues to grow, with over 18 million confirmed cases and more than 700,000 deaths, including upwards of 150,000 of those in the United States. Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, recently testified before Congress that he continues to be confident that a coronavirus vaccine will be ready by early 2021. With more indications that a vaccine could be close, the next question for health professionals, policymakers and political leaders will be Americans' willingness to be vaccinated once a vaccine is ready.

But many Americans appear reluctant to be vaccinated, even if a vaccine were FDA-approved and available to them at no cost. Asked if they would get such a COVID-19 vaccine, 65% say they would, but 35% would not.

The results are based on July 20-Aug. 2 polling in Gallup's COVID-19 tracking survey, conducted with members of Gallup's probability-based panel.

While Gallup has consistently seen that U.S. party preferences play a strong role in Americans' views on COVID-19, the new poll extends that to willingness to be vaccinated. Eighty-one percent of Democrats are willing to be vaccinated today if a free and FDA-approved vaccine were available. That compares with 59% of independents and just under half of Republicans, 47%.

Americans' Willingness to Take an FDA Approved, No Cost Vaccine for COVID-19
If an FDA-approved vaccine to prevent coronavirus/COVID-19 was available right now at no cost, would you agree to be vaccinated?
Yes No
% %
All Americans 65 35
Men 65 35
Women 65 35
Democrats 81 19
Independents 59 41
Republicans 47 53
White Americans 67 33
Non-White Americans 59 41
18-29 years old 76 24
30-49 years old 64 36
50-64 years old 59 41
65 and older 70 30
Rural area/Farm 56 44
Small town/Village 68 32
Suburb of a large city 69 31
Large city 65 35
Gallup Panel, July 20-Aug. 2, 2020

Older Americans have been most likely to have serious complications, including death, from COVID-19. Yet, young people are still affected, and an increasing proportion of new infections are occurring among younger adults, possibly because this age group is engaging in riskier behaviors that are promoting the spread of the disease.

Given the age-related risks seen to date, it may come as good news to public health officials that 76% of adults aged 18-29 are willing to get a COVID-19 vaccination, as are 70% of senior citizens. Willingness to be vaccinated is lower among the middle-aged groups -- 64% among those 30-49 years old and 59% among those between 50 and 64.

Slight Majority of Non-White and Rural Americans Would Get Vaccine

While party affiliation likely explains many of the differences seen in willingness to be vaccinated, there are differences by race that defy the partisan patterns. White Americans are significantly more likely than non-White Americans to say they would be vaccinated if a free FDA-approved version were available -- 67% vs. 59%, respectively. This is particularly noteworthy, given media reports on the pandemic noting that Black and Latino Americans have been disproportionately affected by COVID-19.

Those living in rural areas appear to be less eager than their more urban counterparts to take advantage of a vaccine. Just 56% of those living in a rural area say they would get vaccinated. This may be concerning to public health officials, as the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has pointed out that "long-standing systemic health and social inequities have put some rural residents at increased risk of getting COVID-19 or having severe illness."

In contrast, more than six in 10 Americans living in more urban areas such as a large city (65%) or a suburb of a large city (69%) -- both of which were associated with early hot spots for the virus -- would be willing to take a vaccine. Those in small towns or villages are on par with their more urban counterparts, with 68% on board for a vaccine.

More Than a Third of Employed Americans Unwilling to Take Vaccine

Of potential interest to employers who are counting on a vaccine to get workers back into the workplace is the finding that employed Americans are roughly as likely as the public at large to say they would get vaccinated if they had the option.

Similar to workplaces, schools are also grappling with how and when to get students back into the classroom, with vaccination being the ultimate tool for keeping the virus at bay. While the survey did not ask parents about their willingness to have their children vaccinated, it may be instructive to know that parents themselves lag behind the general public in willingness to be vaccinated themselves. Just 59% of parents of children under 18 say they would agree to be vaccinated, while 41% would not.


As the situation stands today, the nation's influencers -- including health professionals, policymakers and leaders -- who see a vaccine as a way forward may have their work cut out for them in persuading Americans to take advantage of such an option. Policymakers in government, healthcare, industry and education will need to anticipate that a significant proportion of the population will be hesitant to get a vaccine, even at no cost. Some of the most at-risk populations, including non-White and rural Americans, may not only be hesitant but resistant to getting vaccinated. Employers continuing to grapple with new workplace realities must also anticipate that a number of their workers may resist a vaccine.

Such resistance is not unprecedented. When Gallup in 1954 asked U.S. adults who had heard or read about the then-new polio vaccine, "Would you like to take this new polio vaccine (to keep people from getting polio) yourself?" just 60% said they would, while 31% said they would not. So far, willingness to adopt a new vaccine looks similar today. Leaders in favor of a vaccine may be well-served to study what caused the public to ultimately adopt earlier vaccines as they consider how best to influence Americans to take advantage of such an option now.

Learn more about how the Gallup Panel works.

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