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Vaccine Skeptics Share Why They Got a COVID-19 Shot

A person presents his proof of vaccination while standing in line for the Foo Fighters show as Madison Square Garden reopens

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Key Takeaways

  • A new poll shows that most people who were enthusiastic about vaccination in January or wanted to “wait and see” are now vaccinated.
  • Nearly 70% respondents who were vaccine hesitant or resistant in January remain unvaccinated. Most of them say they are concerned about side effects or insufficient testing.
  • Many people who chose to get the shot reported positive feelings about it, crediting family, friends, and doctors for persuading them.

A lot has changed over the past six months in terms of how people think about the COVID-19 vaccines. A recent poll found that 21% of adults who were hesitant or opposed to vaccination in January are now vaccinated.

The poll, conducted by the Kaiser Family Foundation, surveyed over 1,000 adults across the country about their stance on receiving a COVID-19 vaccine between January and June. Respondents also gave a variety of reasons for why they got vaccinated, such as peer pressure and doctor's advice.

A majority of the respondents who said they planned to get the shot as soon as possible have now received at least one dose of COVID-19 vaccine. More than half of people who said they wanted to “wait and see" in January have also gotten at least one shot by now.

Up to 76% of those who reported in January that they were definitely against vaccinations, or would do so only if required, remain unvaccinated. Only 8% of people who made firm decisions about not getting vaccinated have changed their mind.

Nationwide, 67.9% of adults have received at least one dose of COVID-19 vaccine and 59.2% are fully vaccinated. As public health officials push to increase vaccination rates, they are looking to understand how people decide to get vaccinated or not as well as factors that might change their mind.  

Peer Pressure Works

In the questionnaire, many of the respondents who were initially hesitant or dismissive about COVID-19 vaccinations cited their family members, friends, and doctors as playing a key role in persuading them to get the shot.

Two-thirds of vaccinated adults say they have tried to persuade their friends and family to get inoculated.

“My husband bugged me to get it and I gave in,” said a 42-year-old woman, who in January said she would “definitely not” get vaccinated.

A 65-year-old man from Ohio said he chose to get vaccinated “to shut the wife up.”

Some reported changed their mind after seeing that others in their family or community were vaccinated without serious side effects. One person cited the President's well-being as an encouraging factor.

“I feel since our President got vaccinated and all is well with him, it was also safe for me,” a 75-year-old woman from Virginia said.

For others, discussions with doctors and other trusted health professionals helped persuade them of the safety of the vaccines. Sometimes, people reported needing a vaccine due to a medical condition. For instance, a woman had to get vaccinated in order to get treated for lymphoma.

Protecting friends and family members was also a key reason for being immunized, many respondents said. Some said that being able to travel or gather with loved ones incentivized them to get the shot.

“Five generations of our family are getting together in one week from now,” a 68-year-old man from California said.

What This Means For You

If you want more information about COVID-19 vaccination or want to sign up for an appointment, visit vaccines.gov.

Vaccines Bring a Sense of Security

About a third of those who were vaccine enthusiastic in January said they wanted to protect themselves from illness. Most of these people reported positive feelings while 10% said they feel no different. The most common sentiments people expressed were safety and relief.   

A majority of the people who were enthusiastic about getting the shot did so more than two months ago. Those who wanted to “wait and see” were vaccinated within the last two months. Some who were undecided in January said they only did so for practical reasons, like protecting family members or because of work requirements.

“Meh!!!” a 69-year-old man from Illinois said when asked how he would describe his feelings now that he is vaccinated.

A 31-year-old woman from Nevada said she chose to get vaccinated “to stop being afraid of getting it, afraid of the huge medical bills, to go back to normal, to protect others.”

Concerns About Side Effects

The most common reason for not getting the COVID-19 vaccine was concern about side effects.

“My husband got the vaccine and all the side effects. I cannot be sick, I am the rock of the family,” a 42-year-old woman from California said.

One in 10 people who had previously said they would get vaccinated as soon as possible or were undecided now said they would not get the shot.   

“What’s changed my mind is people telling me how sick they got after they received the vaccination I really don’t want to be sick from a vaccination so I kind of lost interest,” a 54-year-old man from California said.

Other reasons included that the vaccine was too new, unknown or untested. Some respondents also thought it was unnecessary. One respondent pointed out that the vaccines were only authorized for emergency use instead of having received full approval.

For those who are now unvaccinated, about 4 in 10 say they plan to wait more than a year before getting a COVID-19 vaccine and about 3 in 10 plan to get it within the next three months.

The information in this article is current as of the date listed, which means newer information may be available when you read this. For the most recent updates on COVID-19, visit our coronavirus news page.

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  1. Kirzinger A, Sparks G, Brodie M. KFF COVID-19 Vaccine Monitor: In Their Own Words, Six Months Later. July 13, 2021.

  2. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. COVID Data Tracker. Updated July 14, 2021.