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Public’s Willingness to Get Vaccinated: Do Politics Matter?

MedicalResearch.com Interview with:

Douglas L. Kriner, PhD The Clinton Rossiter Professor in American Institutions Department of Government Cornell University

Dr. Kriner

Douglas L. Kriner, PhD
The Clinton Rossiter Professor in American Institutions
Department of Government
Cornell University

MedicalResearch.com: What is the background for this study?

Response: When a safe and effective vaccine for COVID-19 reaches the market, the world will not change overnight.  Rather, government and public health individuals will have to develop a comprehensive plan to distribute the vaccine and to convince potentially wary Americans to take it.

Our study examined the influence of both specific vaccine characteristics and the politics surrounding it on public willingness to vaccinate.  Both matter in important ways.  For example, efficacy is unsurprisingly a major driver of public opinion; Americans are more willing to take a vaccine that is more efficacious.

MedicalResearch.com: What are the main findings?

Response: In our study efficacy was a stronger predictor of public willingness to vaccinate than the incidence of major or minor side effects and protection duration.  However, politics also matter.  For example, subjects were less willing to take a vaccine brought to market via an Emergency Use Authorization versus one that has received full FDA approval.  Also, political endorsements produced significantly lower levels of public willingness to vaccinate than endorsements from medical professionals at the CDC or WHO.

MedicalResearch.com: What should readers take away from your report? 

Response: Politics were important in shaping public willingness to vaccinate in our survey – and they are likely even more important today than when we fielded our survey earlier this summer.  Our results speak to the importance of de-politicizing the approval process and the public outreach campaign to convince skeptical Americans to take the vaccine as much as possible.  Continued politicization risks undermining the enormous commitment of intellectual and financial capital to vaccine development. 

MedicalResearch.com: What recommendations do you have for future research as a result of this work?

Response: As more details have become public about the leading early vaccine contenders, future research should examine the influence of other vaccine characteristics on public willingness to vaccinate.  In ongoing research, we are also re-examining the negative effect of an FDA EUA on willingness to vaccinate, which we found in this first study.  This effect may be even larger today given the intensifying politicization over the past few months.  To combat this, full commitment to transparency and removing even the appearance of political influence may be essential to overcoming public fears.

Our only disclosure is that the research was funded by the Cornell Atkinson Center for Sustainability. 


Kreps S, Prasad S, Brownstein JS, et al. Factors Associated With US Adults’ Likelihood of Accepting COVID-19 Vaccination. JAMA Netw Open. 2020;3(10):e2025594. doi:10.1001/jamanetworkopen.2020.25594


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Last Updated on October 20, 2020 by Marie Benz MD FAAD