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Dec. 15, 2020, 2:14 p.m. EST

More Americans now say they’ll get a COVID-19 vaccine once it’s available

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By Meera Jagannathan

As the first COVID-19 vaccine doses in the U.S. make their way into health-care workers’ arms , results from a pair of new polls could have promising implications for when vaccines eventually reach the general public.

Twenty-seven percent of Americans now say they plan to get a coronavirus vaccine as soon as it becomes available, according to the latest Axios/Ipsos poll released Tuesday, a substantial increase from the 13% who said the same in September. This heightened willingness to get vaccinated ASAP was “particularly pronounced” among respondents older than 65, Ipsos said. 

Another 11% of respondents said they would get a vaccine a few weeks after one became available; 25% said they would get it a few months afterward, and 15% said they would get it a year or more after it was available.

Meanwhile, 21% said they wouldn’t get the vaccine, similar to the 23% who said the same in September. Among the most likely to express that sentiment were Republicans, people who had attained a high-school diploma or less, and Black Americans. 

The poll, conducted Dec. 11 to Dec. 14, included responses from a nationally representative sample of 1,009 U.S. adults. 

A separate survey conducted by the Kaiser Family Foundation , a health-care think tank, found that 71% of respondents said they would definitely (41%) or probably (30%) get a COVID-19 vaccine if it were deemed safe by scientists and available to everyone for free. 

Those results, too, marked an increase from a KFF poll conducted in September, when 63% said they would definitely (34%) or probably (29%) would get a coronavirus vaccine under those conditions.

Twenty-seven percent of respondents in December said they would probably not get vaccinated (12%) or definitely wouldn’t (15%). In September, 34% indicated they probably (14%) or definitely (20%) wouldn’t.

Willingness to get a COVID-19 vaccine rose among Black, Hispanic and white respondents between September and December, the latest KFF poll found, though 35% of Black respondents and about a quarter of Hispanic and white respondents still say they definitely or probably wouldn’t get vaccinated. 

Vaccine willingness also increased among both Democrats and Republicans, though it remained flat among independents. Twelve percent of Democrats, 31% of independents and 42% of Republicans now say they definitely or probably wouldn’t get a vaccine. 

Other vaccine-hesitant groups include people aged 30 to 49 (36%), rural residents (35%) and essential workers (33%), according to the poll, which was conducted Nov. 30 to Dec. 8 among 1,676 U.S. adults.

“Those are still big numbers, but it appears they can be reduced with more information,” Kaiser Family Foundation president and CEO Drew Altman wrote in a column about the survey results. “For example, 71% of Black adults who are now hesitant say it’s because they are worried about side effects. Once they learn they are mild and confirm that as people are vaccinated they may worry less.”

Reaching these various vaccine-hesitant groups “will take effective messaging and information efforts utilizing credible messengers and digital communications techniques,” Altman added, “targeting their different worries about the vaccine.”

“No one message or single messenger is likely to be effective,” he said. “If those efforts are funded and implemented it does appear that real progress can be made to reduce hesitancy among the most resistant groups.”

A vaccine candidate from Pfizer /zigman2/quotes/202877789/composite PFE -0.31% and Germany’s BioNTech /zigman2/quotes/214419716/composite BNTX +0.26% began arriving at hospitals across the U.S. on Monday, following its emergency-use authorization by the Food and Drug Administration on Friday. 

Health-care workers and long-term-care facility residents are first in line to receive initial vaccine doses while supply is limited, according to U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommendations. Essential workers, people with chronic health conditions that put them at greater risk for severe COVID-19, and adults 65 and older are also expected to be prioritized going forward.

The average American is likely to gain access to a vaccine by spring or summer at the earliest , experts say.

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