One-Third of Texans Likely to Refuse a COVID-19 Vaccine

Hobby School Poll Offers Insights into Vaccine Hesitancy

More than 40% of Texans say they are certain to be vaccinated against COVID-19 when the vaccine becomes available to them or have already received the vaccine, according to a new report released Tuesday.  About one-third say they are unlikely to do so.

And more than one out of five – 22% – say they definitely will not accept a vaccine.

The findings of the statewide survey by the University of Houston Hobby School of Public Affairs offer insight into who is most likely to decline the vaccine, as well as the reasons behind those decisions.

It was released as Texas and other states struggle to meet surging demand for the vaccines, which are considered an important tool in stemming the virus. Texas has reported more than 2.4 million cases of COVID-19 and more than 37,000 deaths since the pandemic began.

Kirk P. Watson, founding dean of the Hobby School, said the survey will help public health officials and health educators address concerns in order to boost the state’s immunization rate against the virus.

“More than 60% of people who are hesitant to be immunized had concerns about potential side effects and worried that the vaccine is too new,” Watson said. “Understanding why people resist immunization is an important step in reaching herd immunity.”

Health experts estimate between 70% and 90% of the population need to be vaccinated in order to achieve herd immunity. About 3% of Texans responding to the Hobby School survey said they already had received at least the first shot in the two-shot immunization process.

“A successful public immunization effort requires public trust,” said Renée Cross, senior director of the Hobby School. “More than half of people who say they are certain or likely to refuse the shots said they don’t trust the government or the pharmaceutical companies to make sure the vaccine is safe.”

Among other findings:

  • 38% said they definitely will get the shot, while another 18% said they probably will
  • 22% said they definitely will not be immunized; another 10% said they probably will not. 9% said they have not decided
  • African Americans reported greater uncertainty about the vaccine, with 15% saying they are undecided and 48% reporting they have already received it or definitely or probably will get it
  • 10% of Latinos and 7% of Anglos are undecided, while 60% of Latinos and 59% of Anglos said they already have received it or definitely or probably will
  • 66% of those who definitely or probably will not get the vaccine are worried about side effects; 65% said the vaccine is too new and they prefer to wait. 44% said the risks of Covid-19 have been exaggerated
  • 58% of those resisting the vaccine say they don’t trust the government to ensure it is safe; 57% say the same about pharmaceutical companies

The full report is available on the Hobby School website.

Mark P. Jones, a fellow at Rice University’s Baker Institute and a Hobby School senior research associate, said the study’s findings on which demographic groups are least likely to accept the vaccine provides valuable information for expanding vaccine acceptance.

Women, Republicans and people who don’t have a four-year degree were substantially more likely to say they will not get a vaccine, Jones said, although the survey didn’t show dramatic variations among racial and ethnic groups.

“And we found that Democrats are significantly more likely than Republicans to report they definitely will be vaccinated against COVID, at 53% vs. 33% respectively,” he said. “Republicans are more than twice as likely to say they definitely will not get vaccinated, at 28% compared with 11% of Democrats.”

The Hobby School of Public Affairs at the University of Houston conducted an online survey among Texans 18 and older Jan. 12-20, with 1,329 YouGov respondents, resulting in a confidence interval of +/-2.7.  The respondents were matched to a sampling frame on gender, age, ethnicity/race, and education and are representative of the Texas adult population.