Most vaccine hesitant people changed their minds about getting a Covid-19 shot over time, according to new research published in JAMA Network Open Friday, offering hope as officials struggle to boost flagging immunization rates amid soaring cases, hospitalizations and deaths.
Nearly seven in 10 vaccine hesitant people later said they were willing to get the shot or had got one, according to the peer-reviewed study that followed 3,439 people between August 2020 and April 2021.
Among the people who said they were unwilling to get vaccinated at the start of the study, around a third (32%) had been vaccinated by the end of the study, the researchers found, and a further 37% said they would be willing to get the vaccine.
Those older than 65, non-Hispanic Asian people and people with graduate degrees were most likely to have changed their minds, the researchers found, with just 12%, 13% and 18%, respectively, saying they were still unwilling to be vaccinated.
Of these, nearly three quarters (73%) of vaccine-hesitant over 65s ultimately got the shot, in addition to 65% of non-Hispanic Asian people and half of graduate degree holders.
Vaccine hesitant people aged between 45-54 (41%), with a high school education or less (38%) and living in a metropolitan area (38%) were the most likely to still resist vaccination by the end of the study, with only 18%, 24% and 31% having been vaccinated, respectively.
A small number of people became more hesitant over the course of the study, the researchers found, though this was far fewer (between 1-11%) than those who later embraced the vaccine.
The study relied on participants self-reporting their vaccination status. Though the practice is commonly used in polls and studies measuring vaccine uptake, little work has been done to ensure the method is accurate, the researchers wrote. With this in mind, the researchers cross-checked responses with antibody tests to verify vaccination status. The results matched, validated the research method.
The coronavirus vaccines used in the U.S. are safe and highly effective at preventing serious illness, hospitalization and death from Covid-19, including against the delta variant. They are also (supposed to be) free and engender no out-of-pocket costs. Despite an abundant vaccine supply, every adult (and many children) having been eligible for months and having a head start over much of the world, many countries have overtaken the U.S. in terms of vaccine coverage and the country is facing a huge surge of hospitalizations and deaths. These are almost entirely in unvaccinated people and the demand for the few medicines licensed to treat Covid-19 has triggered nationwide shortages and rationing.