COVID vaccines remain the safest way to reduce the risk that SARS-CoV-2 can send you to hospital and are an essential part of the public health campaign against the pandemic. Yet in the United States there has been much controversy and outright anger over attempts to expand vaccine use, and a significant portion of the population appears to be avoiding vaccines for political reasons.
The extreme polarization of American politics hasn’t gone away, and the controversy seems fresh on the minds of some politicians, so it’s easy to expect that vaccine hesitancy won’t go away. But an international survey of COVID vaccine attitudes suggests the United States has seen a surge in COVID vaccine acceptance and now has similar attitudes to other Westernized democracies. Elsewhere in the world, the survey reveals clear regional trends in vaccine acceptance, although there are quirks throughout.
The survey began in 2020 as a series of questions to find out if people intended to get vaccinated once they became available. In the years that followed, the people doing the survey added more nations (now up to 23) and moved the questions around to account for vaccine availability, the addition of boosters, and the development of treatments for COVID-19. In the 23 countries, the survey involved a group of 1,000 participants who generally reflected the population of the country.
The survey focuses on what it calls vaccine hesitancy, which it defines as not having received a dose if available or not intending to get one. times she is. The questions about boosters took the same form but were specific to those who had already received vaccines.
Overall, the news is good. Globally, average vaccine hesitancy has fallen in each edition of the survey and is now just over 20%. That’s exactly where the United States currently sits, with just under 20% indicating they haven’t been given a first chance. (This appears to be similar to the percentage having had at least one stroke, calculated from CDC data.)
It also makes the United States fairly typical of its peer group of Westernized democracies, which tend to be between 15 and 20 percent vaccine hesitant. Spain is on the low side at 10% hesitation, but rates increase as you move east across Europe, with Sweden and Germany above 20%. Poland has the highest hesitation rate among European democracies, at 36%, perhaps influenced by neighboring Russia, where hesitation approaches 40%. The United States now typifies this group, mainly due to an increase of around 20% in the number of people who reported having been vaccinated in the last year alone.
There is no clear pattern when it comes to boosters. France, where vaccine hesitancy was less than 20%, recorded a recall hesitancy of more than 25%, and Germany recorded a recall hesitancy of only 11%. So while local factors seem to be most important here, it’s clear that we can’t expect every message that worked for vaccines to automatically transfer to reminders.
Around the world
The rest of the globe is sparsely represented in comparison, and the countries included mostly highlight the exceptions. For example, countries in South America (Brazil, Ecuador, and Peru) tended to have vaccine hesitancy of around 10%, while in Mexico, just to the north, hesitancy was more than double, over 26%. Acceptance in East and South Asia was very high (from 11% hesitation in South Korea to less than 2% in India), while it was much lower in African countries, where best results, in Nigeria, were almost 30% hesitation.
Notably, South Africa has seen a 20% decline in vaccine acceptance – the largest in the survey – and more than half of its population now express vaccine hesitancy. South Korea is also unusual, in that despite its high level of vaccine acceptance, 27% of participants said they were hesitant about recalls, second only to Russia.
It is important to note that for many low GDP countries, people are still answering the question without really having the opportunity to get vaccinated. More equitable access to vaccines could allow more people in these countries to get vaccinated despite their hesitation. Elsewhere, other research has identified misinformation about vaccines, lower levels of education and mistrust of science and government as factors in hesitation.
Medical education appears to be particularly effective in fostering vaccine acceptance, with only 4.6% of those employed as health workers expressing hesitation, a number that continues to decline.
Another thing that tends to increase with familiarity is the willingness of parents to have their children vaccinated. Globally, this has increased slightly and now stands at around 70%.