Things We Know Are True, Yet Are Not: Reasons Why People Aren’t Getting Vaccinated

When it comes to why people aren’t getting vaccinated, one reason proffered is that it’s difficult for people to get the vaccine due to access-related issues–can’t get time off from work, and so on. In other words, well-intentioned people lack the ability to get the vaccine, as opposed to being hesitant or anti-vaccine. But data from the Census Bureau suggest otherwise (image from here):


In red, I’ve marked the ‘disinformation’ reasons (I put “wait and see” in this category, and left out “don’t trust the government”); in green, I’ve marked the ‘access’-related reasons. It’s pretty clear anti-vaccination propaganda, not access, is the problem here.

For all income categories, “hard for me to get a vaccine” was no higher than four percent–and was highest in the upper income brackets, not the lower ones. Even if we were to assume that all of the people recorded as “other” referring to access issues, the lower brackets still only had twenty percent with access issues (and this clearly isn’t the case, since, again the higher income brackets had far more “other” plus “hard for me to get a vaccine” respondents).

This isn’t to trivialize access problems (and we should work on those, so if people do change their minds, they won’t give up), but the reality is most people who aren’t getting vaccinated don’t think it’s safe or useful for one reason or another. That’s not access, that’s propaganda and misinformation.

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8 Responses to Things We Know Are True, Yet Are Not: Reasons Why People Aren’t Getting Vaccinated

  1. becca says:

    IS it propaganda and misinformation?
    I was thinking about this in the context of a bunch of people saying polio was eradicated and me looking up the numbers in Afghanistan. From 2001 to 2021 it’s gone up ~10X. Great job on hearts and minds, US military. GREAT job…

    I wouldn’t be patronizing/stupid enough to tell the people of Afghanistan they MUST get vaccinated for polio BECAUSE the government is trustworthy. Our CIA done burned that bridge. Similarly, I LIVE with an unvaccinated individual with a PhD in immunology. His main stated reason is “I don’t trust the government”. Frankly, I share most of his political takes. Trust in the government is a crappy reason to get vaccinated.

    I trust the science. I trust some of the individual scientists, even if they work within government. I trust the data I’ve seen. But ultimately I trust *enough* of the process because the system *usually* works out for me.

    But Pfizer fired too many researchers in Kalamazoo for me to trust them as a corporate entity. Moderna took too long to run a proper qPCR assay when I was doing mRNA therapeutics preclinical testing. I took J&J, and would’ve taken the others, but I cannot deny that sometimes MORE knowledge of an organization or institution can ONLY lead intelligent people to trust it LESS. So “I don’t trust government” isn’t the result of propaganda. It’s the SYMPTOM of people for who the entire system is slanted against them. We can’t fix it in Afghanistan by keeping soldiers there in perpetuity. And we can’t fight it here by pretending people are paranoid, when the government really has been (in various ways) out to get them.

    My faith in “the government” didn’t get magically restored the day Biden took office, and I’ve been reading you long enough to know yours didn’t either.
    “I don’t trust the government” is a PROXY for “failed state”. Look at polio in Afghanistan. There but for the grace of flying spaghetti monster go we.

  2. socrates17 – Mahwah NJ USA – Anacarsis Cloots, Maskull, Alfred Jarry (with a phobia about bicycles), Traven (wrong name but does it matter) walking into the Crystal Forest towards an Epiphany of Nothing, Fun Guy
    socrates17 says:

    Also, “Don’t trust the government” is not that irrational a reason for a black person who knows about Tuskegee.

  3. nicoleandmaggie – We rumble grumpily, 'cuz that's how we roll, yo.
    nicoleandmaggie says:

    “weighted response rate of 6.1%.”

    Isn’t it perhaps conceivable that the people who don’t have the time or ability to get vaccines are also people who don’t have the time or ability to answer this survey?

    • nicoleandmaggie – We rumble grumpily, 'cuz that's how we roll, yo.
      nicoleandmaggie says:

      In fact, this will be an excellent example for that first week of stats when we talk about surveys and sampling problems. So, thank you, I guess.

      • mikethemadbiologist
        mikethemadbiologist says:

        The low income people who are supposed to be burdened by the time constraints also don’t report access as an issue compared to other factors. Are there any data that could convince you, or will the answer always be the same?

        • nicoleandmaggie – We rumble grumpily, 'cuz that's how we roll, yo.
          nicoleandmaggie says:

          If you have a survey that has a representative sample of the population… yes. Or multiple surveys that point to the same answer that are biased in different ways. You’re still not getting all the people who really didn’t have time to answer the survey.

          Are you really convinced by such small likely selected evidence? It’s insane that you’re accusing me of not being willing to change my mind because of my biases when you present such small obviously biased evidence. Do you not get basic stats training in your field? Because you seem convinced by a highly selected dataset where it would be surprising to find anything else. Making policy on this kind of evidence would be terrible.

          Using this as a starting point to go in to spend more resources to reach the time constrained populations that were missed by the survey or to look for such studies before deciding to pull all resources would be the appropriate next step in policy making.

        • nicoleandmaggie – We rumble grumpily, 'cuz that's how we roll, yo.
          nicoleandmaggie says:

          BTW if you want to learn more about this fundamental concept, it’s part of a broader idea called “selection into the sample on the Y variable”— which is a subset of sample selection bias. It’s really dangerous in policy making which is why we are trained to spot it early on because it’s not as obvious as people just being biased to lie about something.

  4. Pingback: Selection into the sample on the variable of interest: A Rant | Grumpy Rumblings (of the formerly untenured)

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