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CDC survey finds people are warming up to the idea of coronavirus shots, but many remain reluctant

A shot is prepared at the Fenway Park vaccination sitePat Greenhouse/Globe Staff

Americans warmed up this fall to the idea of getting coronavirus vaccinations, though a large percentage as of December were still not planning to get their shots, according to a new study from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The percentage of people who said they were “absolutely certain” or “very likely” to be vaccinated, increased overall from 39.4 percent in September to 49.1 percent in December, said the study, which was released Tuesday in the CDC’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.

With the people who said they were “somewhat likely” to get vaccinated added in, the numbers were 61.9 percent in September, rising to 68 percent in December.


But that still left about a third of people saying in December they were “not likely” to get a shot.

The CDC said younger adults, women, Black people, people who lived in non-metropolitan areas, people with lower educational attainment, people with lower income, and people without health insurance were most likely to report they did not intend to receive the vaccines.

“Although confidence in COVID-19 vaccines increased during September–December 2020 in the United States, additional efforts to tailor messages and implement strategies to further increase the public’s confidence, overall and within specific subpopulations, are needed. Ensuring high and equitable vaccination coverage across all populations is important to prevent the spread of COVID-19 and mitigate the impact of the pandemic,” the study said.

The study was based on an Internet panel survey of a nationally representative sample of 3,541 US adults from Sept. 3 to Oct. 1, and two other panel surveys with a total of 2,033 participants from Dec. 18 to Dec. 20.

The study also looked at the reasons people gave for not getting the vaccine.

In the December survey, the reasons most frequently cited were concerns about side effects and safety of the COVID-19 vaccine (29.8 percent), planning to wait to see if the vaccine is safe and consider receiving it later (14.5 percent), lack of trust in the government (12.5 percent), and concern that COVID-19 vaccines were developed too quickly (10.4 percent).


The study said it was critical for officials to “promote vaccine confidence by tailoring information to address concerns of individual persons and communities.”

“These findings suggest ... concerns about vaccine safety among priority populations in the United States and have implications for potential messages and strategies that could boost confidence in COVID-19 vaccines and educate essential workers, minority populations, and the general public about the safety of the vaccine development process, and the known effectiveness and safety of authorized COVID-19 vaccines,” the study said.

It noted that health care providers are trusted by many people and could use “CDC-recommended guidance to have effective conversations with patients about the need for vaccination.”

A substantial percentage of people also indicated, in a different national survey released in January, that they were not going to get vaccinated. Researchers looked at responses from 24,682 individuals across all 50 states plus the District of Columbia between Dec. 16, 2020, and Jan. 10.

Twenty-nine percent of people said they were “somewhat unlikely” or “extremely unlikely” to get the shot.

The survey was conducted by The COVID-19 Consortium for Understanding the Public’s Policy Preferences Across States, which is a joint project of Northeastern University, Harvard University, Rutgers University, and Northwestern University.


Martin Finucane can be reached at martin.finucane@globe.com.