: 1 in 5 of these essential workers say they will ‘definitely not’ get the COVID vaccine

United States

While overall U.S. coronavirus vaccine hesitancy has fallen over time, new data suggests that people who have had to work outside their home during the pandemic in non-healthcare settings show less inclination than other groups to get vaccinated against COVID-19.

Non-healthcare essential workers (48%) are less likely than other non-healthcare workers who work from home (69%) and people who aren’t currently working (67%) to say they’ve received at least one coronavirus vaccine dose or will get vaccinated as soon as possible, according to a recently published KFF survey conducted March 15 to March 22.

Twenty-one percent of these essential workers — whose work settings include offices, factories and warehouses, delivery and transportation, and retail — say they will “definitely not” get the vaccine, and 11% say they’ll get it only if required. In contrast, just 7% of those who work from home say they definitely won’t get vaccinated, and 3% say they’ll do so only if required. 

Among both groups, close to one in five respondents said they wanted to first “wait and see” how the vaccines work for other people.

Vaccination intentions among non-healthcare essential workers diverged along political party, race and educational lines: Republican and GOP-leaning workers (40%) were far more likely than their Democratic counterparts (5%) to say they definitely wouldn’t get vaccinated, as were white workers (26%) versus Black (7%) and Hispanic (11%) workers. 

Non-college graduates performing essential work, meanwhile, were far less likely than their college-educated counterparts to say they had received a vaccine dose or planned to get vaccinated as soon as possible.

These demographic differences don’t fully explain the gap in vaccination intentions, the report noted. Even after controlling for those demographic factors and others, essential workers were still more likely than their non-essential counterparts to report they definitely wouldn’t get vaccinated. 

“However, this analysis shows among these factors, the strongest predictors of vaccine intentions are party identification and political ideology,” the authors added.

Majorities of essential workers who say they want to wait to get vaccinated, will get the vaccine only if required, or definitely won’t get the vaccine have concerns related to potentially experiencing serious side effects, being required to get the vaccine even against their will, or missing work due to side effects.  

Many unvaccinated essential workers also report lacking enough information about where to get vaccinated (three in 10) or being unsure about their eligibility within their state (nearly four in 10), though the latter “may be mitigated moving forward” given states across the country having expanded eligibility to all adults as of April 19.

Essential non-healthcare workers, particularly Republicans, are more likely than other groups (57%) to say employers shouldn’t be allowed to require COVID-19 vaccination for certain employees. The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission suggested in guidance released in December that employers can generally mandate that their workers get vaccinated against the coronavirus.

What could move the needle, then? Roughly one in five essential workers say that employer-provided incentives like on-site vaccination and cash payments would make them more likely to get vaccinated.

The nationally representative survey of 1,862 adults, which oversampled Black and Hispanic individuals, included 477 essential workers from non-healthcare fields. Results for that subgroup included a six-percentage point margin of sampling error. 

Many states have prioritized frontline essential workers in their vaccine rollouts. As of Monday, 42.5% of the U.S. population had received at least one vaccine dose and 28.9% had been fully vaccinated, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The vast majority of doses administered in the U.S. have been the two-dose mRNA-based vaccines made by Pfizer PFE, -0.05% with its German partner, BioNTech BNTX, +0.29%, and Moderna MRNA, +2.84%.  

A Centers for Disease Control and Prevention advisory committee voted Friday to lift a federal “pause” in using the one-dose adenovirus viral vector-based Johnson & Johnson JNJ, -0.86% vaccine without any additional stipulations, following reports of ultra-rare but serious blood clots in combination with low platelet levels.