As more Americans are being vaccinated, more people say they are now willing to get the shots than in January.
However, questions about side effects and how the shots were tested still hold some people back. This presents a challenge for U.S. health officials who are ready to expand vaccination to children as young as 12 years old.
The AP-NORC survey, released Tuesday, found 1 in 5 American adults now say they probably or definitely will not get vaccinated. In January, when the shots were first given out, opinion researchers found about 1 in 3 said that they would not get vaccinated.
African Americans are becoming more open to the shots, with 26 percent now saying they definitely or probably will not get vaccinated compared with 41 percent in January.
That is similar to the 22 percent of Hispanic Americans. Among Asian Americans, just nine percent said they definitely or probably will not get the shots.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says that more than 150 million people — about 58 percent of all adults — have received at least one dose of a vaccine.
Among those who remain unvaccinated, only 34 percent of people in the study say they definitely will not get the shot. About three-fourths of those who said they are unlikely to get vaccinated have little to no confidence that the vaccines were tested enough. Some 55 percent were very concerned about side effects.
The numbers, however, mean a large number of unvaccinated Americans could be persuaded to get the shots.
Kizzmekia Corbett is an immunologist with the National Institutes of Health. Corbett helped lead development of the Moderna shot. She spends hours giving answers to questions from Americans — especially African Americans like her. Her job is to fight against misinformation about the three vaccines approved for emergency use in the U.S.
She tells people the COVID-19 vaccines will not cause inability to bear children. Also, the speedy development of vaccines does not mean they are less safe, Corbett told the AP.
Corbett has attended gatherings held by colleges, African American religious leaders, doctors, and even basketball great Kareem Abdul-Jabbar to talk about the vaccine. She said the best way to overcome distrust is to explain the science in understandable terms for strangers just like she does for her family.
But "really, we should have started the conversations very early about what went into it," she said. This way, the public would have understood that no steps were missed in vaccine development.
Last month, U.S. health officials temporarily paused the use of Johnson & Johnson's vaccine. They wanted to find out how to deal with a very rare risk of blood system blockages, known as blood clots. Even after that pause, overall confidence in the vaccines has increased compared with a few months ago.
Expanding shots to children
On Monday, U.S. health officials expanded the use of Pfizer's COVID-19 vaccine to children as young as 12.
Dr. Peter Marks is vaccine chief for the Food and Drug Administration. He said, "Having a vaccine authorized for a younger population is a critical step" in the effort against COVID-19."
Approval for the shots comes before students return to school in autumn and to more normal activities. Shots could become available this week for the nation's 12 to 15-year-olds.
Pfizer is not the only company seeking to lower the age limit for use of its vaccine. Moderna recently said early results from its study on 12 to 17-year-olds showed strong protection and no serious side effects. Another U.S. company, Novavax, has started studying its vaccine, which is in development, in the same age group.
Experts say children must get the shots if the country is to vaccinate the 70 to 85 percent of the population necessary to reach what is called herd immunity. That term describes a condition where enough people have become immune to an infectious disease that it is no longer a threat to people who are not immune to it.