Over the past month, the U.S. has reached several crucial milestones in the ongoing fight to slow the spread of COVID-19. New case counts and hospitalizations are at the lowest points they’ve been all year, and roughly 64% of adults, according to the CDC, are at least partially vaccinated. The U.S. is now mostly on track to meet its goal of reaching 70% of all adults by July 4th. 

COVID-19 has taken the lives of more than half a million Americans over the last year and a half. It goes without saying, therefore, that the present rate of progress has been hard-won. Yet, unfortunately, it might also prove short-lived. 

Over the past couple of months, it’s become increasingly apparent the U.S. probably won’t be able to sustain its current rate of vaccinations much longer. Given the large number of Americans who are reluctant to get innoculated, America’s pool of willing vaccine recipients is rapidly drying up. 

Below, we take a look at what the latest CivicScience data say is driving some Americans toward vaccine hesitancy. We also explore what the data suggest might help persuade those still on the fence, presuming they are eligible, to finally go ahead and get a shot. 

The U.S. Is Running Out of Willing Vaccine Recipients

Since the beginning of the year, when the FDA issued its first emergency use authorization for a vaccine, CivicScience has been tracking Americans’ willingness to get inoculated against COVID-19.

As of the end of April (when the COVID-19 vaccines were widely available) those who were reluctant to get vaccinated were making up a growing share of the remaining unvaccinated Americans.

Data collected over the last month show that a whopping 61% of those who remain unvaccinated say they are not at all likely to get a shot. That represents an increase of five percentage points since our last vaccine update in May. Meanwhile, 14% say they are still unsure, which is the same share as the previous month.

Who Are the ‘Unsure’?

If the U.S. hopes to continue its progress distributing vaccines (and surely it does), government leaders and health officials are going to need to convince those who are still hesitant to get vaccinated to finally take action. 

That might seem like a long-shot, given the present climate of polarization around everything from politics to masks, but, encouragingly, our data reveal that such a strategy actually has potential to produce real gains. Compared to those more strongly opposed to getting a COVID-19 vaccine, those who are merely unsure see themselves as fairly persuadable and open to new arguments, even after they’ve made up their minds.

So who precisely is most likely to still be on the fence about getting vaccinated? The answer, by and large, is mostly white women over the age of 35 living within households earning less than $100K a year (though it’s important to note that, relative to other groups, a larger share of those still on the fence are under 25 and non-white). In addition, a plurality of those who are still unsure about vaccines are politically conservative and live in suburban areas.

There are, of course, a variety of reasons someone might be hesitant to receive a COVID-19 vaccine. Tomorrow CivicScience will publish part two of this week’s vaccine update to discuss why people are hesitant to become vaccinated and how stakeholders can potentially reach these subgroups across America.