Decision to pause Johnson & Johnson vaccine causes public confidence in vaccine to sink

April 15, 2021, 1:42 PM GMT+0

Fieldwork for the latest Economist/YouGov poll on vaccine safety perceptions was in the midst of being conducted when the Centers for Disease Control made the decision to suspend the use of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine. The CDC has recommended a pause on administering doses of the vaccine while it completes an investigation of the six cases of blood clots discovered in women who had been vaccinated with it.

Comparing the results from those who took the survey before the announcement with those who took the survey afterward shows the huge impact the CDC’s decision has had on the perceived safety of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine.

Among those who started the survey before the announcement about the Johnson & Johnson vaccine pause, about half (52%) considered the shot “very safe” or “somewhat safe” - twice the number who believed it “very unsafe” or “somewhat unsafe.” After the announcement was made, these figures had converged - just 37% called the vaccine safe, and 39% feeling it unsafe.

Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine's reputation is also damaged by blood clot concerns

The Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine has suffered numerous setbacks following its rollout in Europe, with the firm subject to bickering between EU nations and the UK over supply contracts and subsequently the drug’s temporary suspension in many countries over blood clot concerns.

The AstraZeneca dose has not been approved for use in the United States yet, but concerns overseas have clearly filtered through to the US public. Currently only 38% of Americans consider the AstraZeneca vaccine safe, while another 27% believe it to be unsafe and a further 35% are unsure – the highest level of any vaccine.

Public concerns of the AstraZeneca vaccine may ultimately not matter, with Dr. Anthony Fauci saying that the United States will likely not need the brand’s vaccines in order to vaccinate the American population.

Americans confident in the safety of Moderna and Pfizer-BioNtech vaccines

In contrast to AstraZeneca and Johnson & Johnson, Americans are much more convinced of the safety of the Moderna and Pfizer-BioNtech vaccines. A majority (58-59%) consider the two more established vaccines to be safe, with only one in five (18-19%) considering them unsafe.

These figures are effectively unchanged from the previous survey on February 27, indicating that concerns over one vaccine do not spill over to affect other vaccines (as YouGov's research in Europe has also indicated). The data from the most recent survey also shows no statistically significant difference in perceptions towards the Moderna, Pfizer and AstraZeneca vaccines between those who took the survey before and after the CDC's announcement.

Confidence in all four vaccines is higher among Democrats than Republicans, but the one group which rejects all of them – and by wide margins – is the quarter of the public who say they will not get vaccinated. Fewer than one in five vaccine rejectors think each vaccine is even somewhat safe.

Among those who aren’t sure whether or not they will be vaccinated, between 40% and 55% don’t know what to think about the safety of each of these vaccines.

See the toplines and crosstabs from this Economist/YouGov poll

Related: Vaccine passports: what should they be used for?

Methodology: The Economist survey was conducted by YouGov using a nationally representative sample of 1,500 US Adult Citizens interviewed online between April 10 - 13, 2021. This sample was weighted according to gender, age, race, and education based on the American Community Survey, conducted by the US Bureau of the Census, as well as 2016 Presidential vote, registration status, geographic region, and news interest. Respondents were selected from YouGov’s opt-in panel to be representative of all US citizens. The margin of error is approximately 2.8% for the overall sample

Image: Getty

This article was updated at 10:40 a.m. EST on April 15 to include additional data.