Although millions of Americans are getting COVID-19 vaccines every day, the number of Millennials and Gen Z adults getting inoculated is lagging behind the pace of other age groups, even as all age restrictions on vaccine access have now been lifted nationwide.
Only 53% of adults under 35 said they have gotten – or plan to get – vaccinated, lower than any other age group, according to approximately 30,000 surveys conducted by Morning Consult between April 13 and April 19. Twenty-seven percent of adults under 35 said they were unwilling to get a vaccine - a rise from one week earlier - with another 21% saying they were uncertain if they would get vaccinated.
The vaccine hesitancy for many young adults appears to be coming from a different place than it is for many of their older, vaccine-hesitant counterparts. American adults under 35 were less likely than older Americans to fear side effects or the speed of which the vaccines were brought to market.
However, adults under 35 were more likely than older adults to indicate a distrust for the vaccines’ efficacy, as well as for the companies making the vaccines. Millennials and Gen Z adults were also nearly twice as likely as adults over 35 to say they didn’t need the vaccine because “the risk to me of contracting COVID-19 was small.”
The growing hesitancy among young adults to get a coronavirus vaccine was first identified by NBCLX and Morning Consult in March.
At the time, Dr. Krutika Kuppalli, Vice Chair of the Global Health Committee at the Infectious Diseases Society of America, told NBCLX that too many young adults seem to believe a “misnomer” that they are safe from the debilitating effects of COVID-19.
“I’ve seen lots of young people who have had severe COVID and severe outcomes like ‘long-COVID,’ where they are living with symptoms,” Kuppalli said. “I don’t think they think about what it feels like to be, essentially, disabled.”
The March poll also tracked a growing hesitancy among Hispanic Americans. Morning Consult’s latest vaccine polling indicates more skepticism/resistance to a vaccine from Hispanic Americans than White Americans, but Black Americans were the least willing to get vaccinated as of April, with 21% uncertain about the vaccines and 27% unwilling to get one - the same rates as all adults under 35.
The poll also found significantly higher rates of vaccine opposition among conservative Americans, with particularly high rates in Mississippi (30%), Idaho (29%), South Dakota (28%), West Virginia (28%), and Oklahoma (28%).
Vaccine opposition was lowest in Hawaii (11%), Massachusetts (11%), Connecticut (13%), New York (13%), and Delaware (14%).
A Morning Consult analysis suggests some of the resistance from young Americans could be due to the overlap with two other demographics that are particularly hesitant about COVID vaccines: adults without a college education and adults making less than $50,000 per year.
Across all demographics, poll respondents cited side effects as the biggest reason for vaccine hesitancy, followed by concerns the vaccine trials moved too fast. However, public health experts have pointed out only the production of the vaccines was expedited; all available vaccines went through the FDA’s standard trials process.
They also point to the extremely low rates of side effects - even with the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, currently under an FDA review - as evidence that the vaccines are far safer than the everyday risk of suffering COVID-related disabilities.
That includes for young adults, many of whom suffer the lingering effects from COVID for months.
Doctors tell NBCLX the best thing to do to ease your friends’ and family’s hesitations about vaccination is not to argue with them, but to listen to their concerns and discuss why they are skeptical.
And, they say it’s always beneficial to model good behavior, so keep posting those vaccine selfies.
Noah Pransky is NBCLX’s political and polling editor. He covers Washington and state politics for NBCLX, and his investigative work has been honored with national Murrow, Polk, duPont, and Cronkite awards. You can contact him confidentially at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter.