About four months from now, classes will begin at colleges and universities across the country, and many students will arrive before then. The question is, will they be vaccinated?
According to a new poll released by College Pulse, 28% of undergraduates say they have already received a COVID-19 vaccine. That is positive news for leaders who have either mandated vaccinations for the fall or have issued assurances to their community that almost all of their students will be.
Despite the expedience of rolling out the vaccines, there has been some hesitancy from specific college populations. The report done of 1,500 students revealed splits in those who had been receiving doses of Modern, Pfizer and Johnson & Johnson (which has currently been paused but could be available again as early as this weekend).
Most notably were the divides along political lines: with only 12% of college Republicans having been vaccinated, while 33% of Democrats revealed they had gotten doses. Of those who had yet to receive vaccines, only 4% of those who lean Democrat said they are not planning to get it. By contrast 28% of those Republicans said they weren’t. That nearly follows a trend noted by College Pulse researchers and revealed in a recent Monmouth University study that showed 45% of Republican adults plan to skip getting the vaccine. There are about 10% who remain undecided.
Although vaccines only have been approved for emergency use authorization, the CDC and numerous public health officials have underscored both their safety and efficacy in mitigating and preventing severe outcomes from COVID-19. So, what are the reasons being given by the group of college students for not getting vaccines?
They say data is holding them back, with more than 40% citing a lack of information about vaccines. For Republican students that number is closer to 50%. And yet, the vast majority of students polled – nearly 80% – say the information they have been getting has been “trustworthy” and clear”. Most than a quarter (the most within the survey) revealed they get vaccine information from online or print news sources and another 20% from friends or family. Those who don’t follow vaccine news at all: 18% Republicans, 4% Democrats.
Colleges have been a good source of information for about 12% of students (Democrats 14%, Republicans 6%). And between 85-90% say their institutions have been “trustworthy” in the dissemination of vaccine information.
One surprise statistic: Lack of trust does not seem to be a factor. Only 17% of students polled said they are concerned about the vaccines (just 23% of Republican students).
When it comes to getting information on vaccines from any sources, Black students were the least likely in the survey among several subgroups to say it was “very trustworthy” (28%). Black students are also more reluctant to get vaccinated (22%) than White (28%), Asian (29%) and Hispanic/Latinx (34%) students. More than 40% of students said they knew someone who had passed away from COVID, including 56% who identified as Hispanic/Latinx.
If a large enough percentage of students are not vaccinated, colleges and universities might be hard-pressed to reopen in “fully-open”, traditional models. Many students surveyed seem to understand that – with more than 60% expecting to be wearing masks inside and more than 50% believing they will be tested regularly for COVID 19.
What does this group of college students think about mandatory vaccinations? More than 70% said they are OK with their institutions requiring them.