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Racial and Ethnic Minorities Lead the Way in Willingness to Get Vaccinated

The views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of ASPA as an organization.

By The Research Institute for Social Equity (RISE) at VCU Wilder School
July 26, 2021

While Virginia has now surpassed the 70% mark for vaccinations, significant differences exist among racial and ethnic groups regarding willingness to get the vaccine, according to a new statewide vaccine poll conducted for the Virginia Department of Emergency Management by the Research Institute for Social Equity (RISE) at the L. Douglas Wilder School of Government and Public Affairs at Virginia Commonwealth University.

When asked if they were likely to get vaccinated, only 6% of unvaccinated white respondents said that they were likely to do so. Willingness among unvaccinated racial and ethnic minorities was higher, with 15% of unvaccinated African-Americans, 10% of unvaccinated Asians and 11% of unvaccinated Hispanics saying that they are likely to get vaccinated.

“Objective and relevant observation of the effects of race in American society is displayed by these poll responses,” said former Virginia Governor L. Douglas Wilder. “These data can be used to address the systemic and recurring effects in fostering the role of government.”

Racial and ethnic minorities also lead the way in willingness to get vaccinated nationwide. According to data collected by the Kaiser Family Foundation, 8% of unvaccinated Black adults say that they want to get vaccinated as soon as possible and 15% said that they will wait and see. Among unvaccinated Hispanic adults, 7% want to get vaccinated as soon as possible and 14% say that they will wait and see before deciding. Percentages among unvaccinated white adults were smaller, with only 2% saying they would get vaccinated as soon as possible and 9% saying that they will wait and see.

Differences in willingness to get vaccinated also vary by age, family income and level of education. Unvaccinated adults in the 18-34 age were the most likely to say that they would get vaccinated (13%), followed by those 35-54 years old (9%) and those 55 and older (5%). However, it’s important to note that the trend was inversed when asked about already being vaccinated; those in the 55 and older age range were most likely to be vaccinated (86%), and those in the 18-34 age range were the least likely (65%).

When considering family income, unvaccinated individuals with an income of under $50,000 were most likely to say that they would get vaccinated (16%). Unvaccinated individuals with higher income levels were less likely to say that they would get vaccinated, with 6% of those making $50,000 to $100,000 and 5% of those making over $100,000 saying that they were likely to get vaccinated. Those with an income of $50,000 to $100,000 were most likely to already be vaccinated (77%), followed by those making $100,000 or more (74%) and those making under $50,000 (70%).

Those with higher levels of education (college graduate or more) were the most likely to be currently vaccinated (82%) but the least likely to say that they were likely to get vaccinated if they had not already done so (5%). In comparison, those with some college or a high school degree or less were more likely to say that they would get vaccinated if they had not already done so (7% and 13%, respectively) but less likely to have already gotten vaccinated (65% and 70%).

Compared to RISE’s April poll, there has also been a marked decrease in concern regarding vaccine side effects (77% versus 67%) and concern about how well the vaccines work (44% versus 37%). Other reasons for not getting vaccinated include concern over how quickly the vaccines were developed and tested (72%), and a belief that the vaccine is not needed (43%). Approximately 7% of respondents indicated that receiving a cash reward or paid time off work would increase their willingness to get vaccinated, while only 3% said a gift card would influence their willingness to get the COVID-19 vaccine. Though few respondents found a cash reward to be incentivizing, those who were the most incentivized by this reward had a family income of $100,000 or more (15%). Hispanic respondents (27%) were three times as likely as white respondents (8%) to find a cash reward incentivizing.

As vaccination efforts continue in Virginia and across the United States and world, policymakers are making decisions regarding which populations to target with their vaccinations efforts. As the data show that racial and ethnic minorities are among the most willing to get vaccinated, future vaccination initiatives that target these populations would likely be successful.

Author: The Research Institute for Social Equity (RISE) within the VCU Wilder School serves as a vehicle to advance equity and social justice for communities of color, LGBTQIA individuals, people with disabilities, incarcerated populations, survivors of domestic violence and women through multidisciplinary scholarship, research, training and engagement. Twitter: @VCUWilderSchool

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