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People still hesitant on J&J vaccine, but support is growing, poll finds

A pack and vials of the single-dose Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine.
A pack and vials of the single-dose Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine.DIRK WAEM/BELGA/AFP via Getty Images

Demand for the J&J COVID-19 vaccine remains low after a pause last month, though the situation appears to be slowly improving in some quarters, according to data published Monday by researchers at Boston Children’s Hospital and Harvard Medical School.

The researchers, who are collaborating on the tracking project with the company SurveyMonkey, posted their findings Monday to the Substack platform.

“The pause on distribution of the Johnson and Johnson COVID-19 vaccine may be over, but Americans’ willingness to receive that particular vaccination brand has still not fully recovered,” the posting said.

According to the researchers, tracking data shows “demand for the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines has held steady or even increased in recent days, while demand for Johnson & Johnson is well below where it was a month ago.”

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The J&J shot was paused in the US for 11 days last month while officials investigated reports of a very small number of people who developed a rare blood clotting condition after receiving the vaccine.

Health officials lifted the pause in late April after scientific advisers decided the shot’s benefits outweigh the risks.

“Just 23% of those who have not yet been vaccinated now say they would be willing to receive the Johnson and Johnson vaccine, up slightly from 17% on April 19 but still well below its level prior to the pause,” the researchers’ posting said. “Pfizer and Moderna, on the other hand, are both seeing slightly increased demand since the pause on Johnson & Johnson distribution was announced on April 13.”

The posting noted that with over half of the US adult population at least partially vaccinated — Pfizer and Moderna require two shots over a period of weeks, while J&J’s a one-shot deal — a growing number of people who’ve yet to get vaccinated say they’re hesitant to do so.

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In addition, the researchers said they tracked willingness to get vaccinated among people who’ve always said they’re eager to get inoculated.

“The percent willing to receive the Johnson & Johnson vaccine among this group plummeted from 47% on April 12 to 19% on April 19, but has since risen to 31% by May 2 and seems to be on an upward trajectory,” the posting said.

There’s also a gender divide within that group, with just 18 percent of women compared to 40 percent of men who “now say they would be willing to get the Johnson & Johnson vaccine,” the posting said.

That’s a change from before the pause, researchers said, when men and women were about equally likely to say they’d take the J&J shot.

And demand for all the vaccines is even lower among people who haven’t been vaccinated and who aren’t sure whether they want the jab, according to the research team.

“Just 18% of people in this group now say they would be willing to receive the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, down from 28% on April 12, and on a trajectory that has plateaued since the pause was announced,” the posting said.

By comparison, the team wrote, 36 percent of respondents in this group say they’d be willing to receive the Pfizer vaccine, and 27 percent would get the Moderna shot, data points that are both significantly higher than their baseline before the pause.

Federal, state, and local authorities have made battling vaccine hesitancy a key plank of their pandemic response.

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The US Department of Health and Human Services has released data and an interactive tool that are intended to highlight the places where efforts need to be stepped up to persuade people to get their shots.

The agency developed estimates for both “hesitancy” and “strong hesitancy” among people 18 and older using responses to the Census Bureau’s Household Pulse Survey, which is measuring household experiences during the pandemic.

The “hesitancy” group included people who said they would “probably not get a vaccine” or “definitely not get a vaccine.” The “strong hesitancy group” was a subset of the first group that only included people who said they would “definitely not get a vaccine.”

In Massachusetts, where vaccine hesitancy is far lower than elsewhere, officials have pushed several initiatives to combat hesitancy, including ad campaigns and mobile clinics.

“With all of our counties showing hesitancy rates that are well below 10 percent, people in Massachusetts are eager to get vaccinated,” Governor Charlie Baker, a Republican, told reporters during a late-April briefing. “And in addition to our strong vaccine distribution infrastructure, this enthusiasm is a critical part of making Massachusetts the leading state among all big states in getting our residents vaccinated.”

Baker said at the time that state officials have remained focused on vaccine equity as well.

The equity push, he said, includes a “$30 million vaccine equity initiative, which has been focused on breaking down barriers to getting vaccinations and promoting access and awareness, especially in our disproportionately affected communities.”

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Material from the Associated Press and prior Globe stories was used in this report.



Travis Andersen can be reached at travis.andersen@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @TAGlobe.