It’s been more than one year since the U.S. began its rollout of COVID-19 vaccines. Although one of the most contentious issues of the century, the CDC reports that more than 80% of American adults have received at least one shot of the Moderna, Pfizer-BioNTech, or Johnson & Johnson vaccines at time of writing. Three-quarters of people are considered to be fully vaccinated with two shots and more than 40% have received booster doses, while vaccinations continue to be administered daily. 

The Omicron wave is now in a welcomed retreat, but the future is still anyone’s guess, provoking a litany of questions. How likely are people to continue to vaccinate in the event of new variants? Which vaccine manufacturers are the most trusted? Does the new Novavax vaccine appeal to the vaccine-hesitant?

To help answer some of these questions, CivicScience gathered high-level intel on public perception of COVID-19 vaccines through a series of surveys. 

Polling more than 3,400 U.S. adults finds that the majority of Americans – 65% – feel positively about the overall efficacy of the COVID-19 vaccines. Over one-third of respondents believe that the vaccines have been highly effective at preventing the spread of the disease, while more than one-quarter feel they have been somewhat effective. On the other hand, one-in-three adults feel the vaccines have not been effective. 

Current results are less positive than results from a November 2020 survey prior to the vaccine rollout, when 75% of the Gen Pop was hopeful that the Pfizer vaccine specifically would be effective in stopping the spread and just 10% were doubtful.

Yet despite the disruption caused by Delta and Omicron variants, general outlook on vaccination in the U.S. remains relatively strong. In fact, when asked what strategies should be taken at the current moment to prevent the spread of COVID-19, the majority of respondents – 64% – list vaccination as the number one most important measure. That’s followed by masking, social distancing, and lastly, testing.

Vaccine Manufacturer Favorability

Gauging favorability towards the two manufacturers of Covid vaccines currently available in the U.S., results indicate public opinion of both Pfizer and Moderna is overwhelmingly positive. More than 75% of adults feel favorable or neutral toward the companies. In fact, more people feel favorable than neutral, with nearly one-quarter feeling “very favorable.” In contrast, less than one-quarter feels at all unfavorable to either company. 

Pfizer vs. Moderna

A simplified view shows that people are slightly more favorable to Pfizer, as well as slightly more unfavorable. Even though far more Americans have received Pfizer than Moderna vaccines (as tracked by the CDC), favorability results are strikingly similar between the two pharma companies.

Favorability by COVID-19 Infection

Does having a current or past Covid infection impact someone’s public perception of the vaccine manufacturers? Data show that people within the last year who have experienced a Covid infection either themselves or in their household, or who have known someone outside of their household with Covid, are overall more favorable towards Pfizer and Moderna. 

However, it’s likely that a stronger association with Covid infections does impact outlook. Over one-third of people who have experienced both an infection in their household and know others who have become infected feel unfavorable towards Pfizer. 

Favorability by Covid Vaccination Status

As anticipated, vaccine status undoubtedly plays a role in perception. Vaccinated individuals are over seven times more likely to feel favorable about Pfizer and roughly nine times more likely to feel favorable about Moderna compared to unvaccinated individuals. 

Small pockets of vaccinated individuals are unfavorable to either company. On the other hand, feelings of dislike run disproportionately high among people who are unvaccinated – more than half are unfavorable to either company – suggesting vaccine hesitancy is tied to negative views or distrust of the manufacturers.

Vaccine to Watch: Novavax 

That said, could the new Novavax vaccine change the vaccine landscape – and possibly sway people who are unvaccinated and unfavorable to Pfizer or Moderna to get the shot? Now gaining authorization for use in countries around the world, the Novavax vaccine uses protein-based technology similar to that used in the flu or shingles vaccines, different from Pfizer and Moderna’s mRNA vaccines. 

If approved for use in the U.S., 42% of adults express interest in receiving the Novavax vaccine. 

Among those familiar with Novavax, 19% of unvaccinated and 67% of vaccinated individuals express interest in receiving the vaccine if it becomes available in the United States. Initial results suggest that while the majority of unvaccinated people are unlikely to line up for the new vaccine, it could provide a viable option for boosters and future shots among vaccine supporters.

Overall, public feelings on COVID-19 vaccination in the U.S. appear to rest on the positive end of the spectrum, for the time being. One year post-rollout, sentiment towards leading vaccine manufacturers Pfizer and Moderna is mostly favorable or neutral, with some exceptions seen among people who have experienced and witnessed a greater number of infections. At the same time, findings suggest the new Novavax vaccine may be well-received in the U.S. going forward.