One-Third of Unvaccinated Americans Don't Trust Scientists Who Made Vaccines, Survey Finds

A slim majority of Americans surveyed last week said they are optimistic about the COVID-19 crisis getting "better" and expressed openness to receiving a vaccination. But a sizable share of adults said their distrust of science and the government will keep them from ever getting vaccinated.

A wide-ranging survey conducted among 2,382 U.S. residents by CBS News/YouGov found a 55 percent majority have already been vaccinated or plan to get the shots as soon as they become available. The data shows Americans, particularly Black and Hispanic adults, are increasingly open to vaccination. But about one-third of unvaccinated people said they don't trust the science behind the vaccines and accused the scientists who produced them of continually getting coronavirus information wrong.

Sixty percent of unvaccinated Americans who are skeptical about getting the shots said scientists and medical experts "have been wrong" too many times about the novel coronavirus and they can't be convinced that a vaccine is safe.

The survey, conducted between March 10 and March 13, showed that nearly two-thirds, 63 percent, of Americans think the coronavirus outbreak will get "better" over the next few months. Just over one-quarter say things will "stay the same" and 10 percent say daily life will "get worse."

But the staunch opposition to even considering a vaccine among about one-third of unvaccinated respondents comes as health officials plead with Washington lawmakers to not politicize the vaccination process. National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases director Dr. Anthony Fauci on Sunday joined a growing chorus of scientists who have personally requested that former President Donald Trump and other Washington lawmakers encourage their supporters to seek a vaccination appointment.

The most common answer from unvaccinated people about why they haven't, and perhaps never will, receive a shot is that "it's still too untested—will wait and see."

Behind that 58 percent majority response are 47 percent of unvaccinated Americans who said they are worried about potential side effects. But there were also sizable shares of this same group who said their distrust of government workers and the scientists who produced the vaccines will prevent them getting vaccinated no matter what.

Thirty-seven percent of unvaccinated respondents said they "don't trust the government" and the role politics has played in the vaccine's creation and distribution. And about one-third of those surveyed said they don't trust the scientists who make the vaccines. People who outright said they will never get a vaccination were particularly likely to cite distrust as their reasoning.

Among those who said they won't get a vaccine, the survey found 60 percent claiming "scientists have been wrong on the coronavirus most or all of the time." A similar six-in-ten of these unvaccinated people said social distancing and mask mandates don't help control the spread of the virus. Only one-quarter of Americans overall share this opinion.

In contrast to these anti-vaccination fears about scientists and the government, the FDA has stated the U.S. "has the safest, most effective vaccine supply in its history."

Former New Jersey Republican Governor Chris Christie on Sunday joined Fauci in calling for Washington lawmakers to stop politicizing the vaccines. "If we don't knock off the politics in Washington, D.C. around this issue, we're going to have less people vaccinated, herd immunity less soon, and real problems—we don't need those," he said on This Week.

Newsweek reached out to the FDA for reaction Sunday afternoon.

vaccination safety americans trust survey
People hold signs at a protest against masks, vaccines and vaccine passports outside the headquarters of the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) on March 13 in Atlanta. To date, there have been over 534,000 deaths in the U.S. due to COVID-19. ELIJAH NOUVELAGE / Stringer/Getty Images