The role of social circle COVID-19 illness and vaccination experiences in COVID-19 vaccination decisions: an online survey of the United States population

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Background: Around the world, policymakers have clearly communicated that COVID-19 vaccination programs need to be accepted by a large proportion of the population to allow life return to normal. However, according to the Center for Disease Control, about 31% of the United States population had not completed the primary vaccination series as of November 2022.

Aims: The primary aim of this work is to identify the factors associated by American citizens with the decision to be vaccinated against COVID-19. In addition, the proportion of fatal events from COVID-19 vaccinations was estimated and compared with the data in the VAERS database.

Methods: An online survey of COVID-19 health experiences was conducted. Information was collected regarding reasons for and against COVID-19 inoculations, experiences with COVID-19 illness and COVID-19 inoculations by survey respondents and their social circles. Logit regression analyses were carried out to identify factors influencing the likelihood of being vaccinated.

Results: A total of 2840 participants completed the survey between December 18 and 23, 2021. 51% (1383 of 2840) of the participants were female and the mean age was 47 (95% CI 46.36-47.64) years. Those who knew someone who experienced a health problem from COVID-19 were more likely to be vaccinated (OR: 1.309, 95% CI 1.094-1.566), while those who knew someone who experienced a health problem following vaccination were less likely to be vaccinated (OR: 0.567, 95% CI 0.461-0.698). 34% (959 of 2840) reported that they knew at least one person who had experienced a significant health problem due to the COVID-19 illness. Similarly, 22% (612 of 2840) of respondents indicated that they knew at least one person who had experienced a severe health problem following COVID-19 vaccination. With these survey data, the total number of fatalities due to COVID-19 inoculation may be as high as 278,000 (95% CI 217,330-332,608) when fatalities that may have occurred regardless of inoculation are removed.

Conclusion: Knowing someone who reported serious health issues either from COVID-19 or from COVID-19 vaccination are important factors for the decision to get vaccinated. The large difference in the possible number of fatalities due to COVID-19 vaccination that emerges from this survey and the available governmental data should be further investigated.

Keywords: COVID-19; Return to normal; SARS-CoV-2; Survey; Vaccination.

Conflict of interest statement

The author declares that he has no competing interests.

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