Since the spike in hospitalizations and deaths topping 300,000 in the U.S., one day and week at a time, it appears that more Americans are moving on a continuum from being vaccine-hesitant toward vaccine-enthusiasm.

The latest Kaiser Family Foundation COVID-19 Vaccine Monitor for December 2020 quantifies this moving sentiment across several perspectives:

  • Most Americans across political party believe the COVID-19 vaccine development process is moving at the right speed
  • The number of Americans who would get a coronavirus vaccine if it were free and seen as safe grew since September, from 34% of people who would “definitely get it” to 41% of folks who would. Net “get it” increased from 63% of people to 71% in 3 months to early December
  • The percent of Black Americans who would get it (net definitely + probably) expanded from 50% to 62%
  • Most Americans believe a COVID19 vaccine will be widely available by summer 2021
  • A growing proportion of people in the U.S. are also confident that the vaccine will be fairly distributed — a sentiment growing particularly fast among the U.S. Black population.

Still, many Black and Hispanic adults in the U.S. lack confidence that the vaccine development process took their needs into account: only 50% of Black people are confident their needs have been considered, compared with 60% of Hispanic people.

Furthermore, there remains a huge chasm between U.S. health citizens who believe getting a vaccine is a personal responsibility for the collective public health version a personal choice for the individual alone. This opinion is split half-and-half, polarizing Americans between personal rights versus personal responsibility.

The second chart illustrates this point, with a 70% majority of Democrats looking to the collective commitment compared with roughly half-and-half for Independents, and 7 in 10 Republicans siding with vaccine opt-in as a personal choice.

Overall, 27% of U.S. adults are COVID-19 vaccine hesitant: that is, even if a vaccine were determined by scientists to be safe and available for free to everyone who wanted it, they still would not get it.

It is important to know that the folks who remain vaccine hesitant are not represented by one single demographic group. The vaccine hesitant tend to be Republican (42%), be rural residents (35%), be Black (35%), be an essential worker (33%), or identify as politically Independent (31%).

Health Populi’s Hot Points: Trust is a precursor to health engagement. The most trusted sources of COVID-19 vaccine information, the KFF study found, are one’s own doctor or health care provider (85% of people agreeing), the U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC, 73%), the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA, 70%), one’s local public health department (70%), and Dr. Anthony Fauci (68%).

Those trusting President Trump as a COVID-19 vaccine information trust was 34% overall, and 56% among people who would “definitely not get the vaccine).

The last chart here from the report (labeled Figure 14) notes misconceptions about masks by vaccine enthusiasm. Note that among those who “definitely would not get a COVID-19 vaccine,” most believe masks would be harmful to their health, that masks do not help limit the spread of coronavirus, and that masks do not protect the wearer from the virus.

To breach this gap in trust and collective public health, I turn to my fourth pillar of health citizenship: a new social contract for health, which is Love.

I wear the mask for you. You wear the mask for me.

In this holiday season, as we pray or meditate on peace and health for our families, nuclear and extended alike, what we choose to do on a daily basis impacts those we care about. Our healthy choices influence those in our direct social networks, and our networks’ network connections as well.

The COVID-19 pandemic has inspired so many people to recognize our individual role in public health. I am including this in a forecasting point for my 2021 scenario planning projects right now. While not a 100% universal ethos among U.S. health citizens, the public health crisis has made it evident to most people that our individual choices do impact the health of people around us.

Onward, health citizens, with love, health, masks, and vaccination.