COVID Vaccine Rejectors May Be Here To Stay

Survey Results Fielded From Dec. 16 to June 4

person checking no on covid-19 vaccine waiver

Alex Dos Diaz / Verywell

Key Themes From Our Survey

  • COVID-19 vaccine rejectors are standing firm against getting their doses.
  • States are removing restrictions, but the Delta COVID-19 variant is primed to spread in unvaccinated populations.
  • As more people get vaccinated, offices are reopening and people are headed back to work.

After more than 15 months of quarantining and precautions, COVID-19 has left almost 4 million dead worldwide and nearly 180 million infected. The pandemic still rages outside of the U.S. borders, and more infectious variants are spreading within the United States. Still, almost a fifth of the US population have rejected the COVID-19 vaccine and won’t get vaccinated. 

These vaccine rejectors are not budging—no matter how many coupons, free donuts, days of daycare, vaccine rides, $1 million lotteries, or local clinics are held. For the last eight weeks, COVID-19 vaccine rejectors have made up exactly 17% of the respondents for Verywell Health’s vaccine sentiment tracker survey. 

These aren’t people who don’t have time to get their shots or who are waiting for a specific reason. More than half (53%) of unvaccinated survey respondents say they definitely will not get vaccinated, while 22% are undecided about it. Only a quarter of the unvaccinated population says they want to get vaccinated, but haven’t yet. 

The data presented in this article is from thirteen surveys of 2,000 Americans asked about their thoughts and feelings towards getting the COVID-19 vaccines. We collected the latest data for the week ending on June 4th. Our survey sample highlighted four types of respondents based on their answer to whether or not they’d get an FDA-authorized COVID-19 vaccine if it were free and available: 

  • Acceptors: Those who would agree to be vaccinated
  • Rejectors: Those who would not agree to take a vaccine
  • Undecideds: Those who don’t know if they would take a vaccine
  • Vaccinated: Those who have received a COVID-19 vaccination

These holdouts and rejectors are at risk of contracting COVID-19. As a whole, the U.S. is only 45.7% fully vaccinated, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). We are nowhere near herd immunity. Several thousand people a day still test positive for a COVID-19 infection—and almost all new cases of COVID-19 are in people that are not fully vaccinated

Infections and deaths from COVID-19 have been falling around the country, but there are still hotspots in the south. Missouri, Oklahoma, Arkansas, and Utah all have rising daily case numbers and deaths.

And another surge of COVID-19 infections may be on the horizon, as the latest COVID-19 variant, Delta, becomes predominant in the U.S. in the next few weeks. This variant is responsible for a growing portion of new COVID-19 cases, and it’s the most infectious strain yet. It may also be more likely to lead to serious illness in those who have not been vaccinated, according to NPR.

This dangerous variant is spreading while Americans are charging full speed ahead in their return to pre-pandemic life. Half of Americans (51%) now believe we’re six months or less from pre-pandemic life, the most optimistic our survey respondents have been since the start of our survey. Many are venturing out of the home to participate in public events, patronize shops and restaurants, and travel. They’re even heading back to the office.

Return to Real Life

As vaccination rates slowly climb upward, people are returning to public life, with encouragement from state and local governments. We’re all getting less anxious about getting out of the house and participating in social events, as re-emergence anxiety has dipped. 

Only a quarter of our survey respondents say they’re worried about being among the general population, down from 31% a month ago. They are becoming more likely to go out and participate in public events, dine out in restaurants, and go on flights.

In our latest survey, half of Americans (54%) have dined inside a bar or restaurant in the last month. Nearly 1 in 10 have flown in a plane (9%). Both of these numbers have doubled since our first sentiment tracker in December 2020.

At this point, most of the 50 states have fully reopened, with the last few holdouts finally budging. California lifted most COVID restrictions on June 15, Michigan lifted theirs on June 22, and Washington will be ending their restrictions by the end of June.

While the U.S. as a whole hasn’t reached Biden’s July 4 vaccination goal of having 70% of the adult population vaccinated, 14 states have so far.

Returning to the Office

Fifteen months after leaving the office to work from home for two weeks, many Americans are planning to return to in-person work. While about half (56%) of workers in our survey are working from home at least part of the time, a third of them say their employers have already announced return-to-office plans. 

Workers in our survey are less concerned about going back into the office. Only 26% say they’re at least moderately worried about going back into an in-person work environment—a significant decrease from 37% four weeks ago. However, less than half of workers (45%) say they mostly trust their employers to take proper precautions for a safe return to the office. 

While vaccine passports haven’t gotten a push from the federal government, a third of workers (35%) say that their employers will be requiring proof of vaccination before returning to work. The measures are relatively popular, with a majority (54%) of workers agreeing that people should have to prove that they’ve been vaccinated. 

While we may have been itching to leave the house to socialize, many Americans have gotten comfortable with their pets and houseplants as their coworkers are hoping to keep working remotely, at least part-time. This model seems to be embraced by employers, as well, as many are offering a hybrid model: a few days in the office and a few days at home. 

A Word From Verywell

If you or someone you know has yet to be vaccinated, you may be wondering if it’s really that big of a deal. A portion of those vaccinated will experience some mild side effects, and it could cost you a day of work. People probably assume you’re already vaccinated, and if everyone around you is, do you really need to? What’s the harm in just skipping it?

While COVID-19 virus’s spread has dropped drastically, it’s still out there spreading among the unvaccinated.

Some unvaccinated people have had a tough time scheduling appointments. Others, like those with immune system disorders or a history of anaphylaxis, can’t get vaccines. For these people, and for your own health, we need to do everything we can to reach herd immunity—the magic number that stops the virus from spreading in our communities. 

Without herd immunity, there’ll still be a big enough part of the population that is vulnerable to infection for the virus to get a foothold and spread. If you’re not vaccinated, you’re risking not just getting sick yourself, but also spreading the virus to someone who can’t get vaccinated. 

With new variants coming and the virus still spreading in other parts of the world, we’re not over this yet. Think about it if you’re avoiding getting a vaccine or know someone else who is.


The Verywell Vaccine Sentiment Tracker is a biweekly measurement of Americans’ attitudes and behaviors around COVID-19 and the vaccine. The survey is fielded online every other week. The total sample matches U.S. Census estimates for age, gender, race/ethnicity, and region. It consists of 1,000 Americans from December 16, 2020, until February 26, 2020, after which the sample size increased to 2,000 per wave.

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.

2 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. World Health Organization. WHO Coronavirus (COVID-19) Dashboard

  2. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. COVID-19 vaccinations in the United States.

By Jennifer Welsh
Jennifer Welsh is a Connecticut-based science writer and editor with over ten years of experience under her belt. She’s previously worked and written for WIRED Science, The Scientist, Discover Magazine, LiveScience, and Business Insider.