COVID-19 and vaccine hesitancy: A longitudinal study
How do attitudes toward vaccination change over the course of a public health crisis? We report results from a longitudinal survey of United States residents during six months (March 16 –August 16, 2020) of the COVID-19 pandemic. Contrary to past research suggesting that the increased salience of a disease threat should improve attitudes toward vaccines, we observed a decrease in intentions of getting a COVID-19 vaccine when one becomes available. We further found a decline in general vaccine attitudes and intentions of getting the influenza vaccine. Analyses of heterogeneity indicated that this decline is driven by participants who identify as Republicans, who showed a negative trend in vaccine attitudes and intentions, whereas Democrats remained largely stable. Consistent with research on risk perception and behavior, those with less favorable attitudes toward a COVID-19 vaccination also perceived the virus to be less threatening. We provide suggestive evidence that differential exposure to media channels and social networks could explain the observed asymmetric polarization between self-identified Democrats and Republicans.