COVID Vaccination: Who is, Who isn’t, and Why Not

Which Oregonians are getting vaccinated? What are people’s top reasons for not getting vaccinated? Are they likely to get vaccinated in the future?

A syringe and vial

From July 9-14, 2021, the Oregon Values and Beliefs Center conducted a statewide survey of Oregonians’ values and beliefs about COVID-19 vaccination. The questions were intended to gather preliminary data to inform more in-depth research in the months ahead.

The online survey consisted of 1,464 Oregon residents ages 18+ and took approximately 15 minutes to complete. This survey’s margin of error, for the full sample, ranges from ±1.5% to ±2.6% depending on how the response category percentages split for any given question. Due to rounding, numbers may not add up to 100%.

Respondents were contacted by using professionally maintained online panels. In gathering responses, a variety of quality control measures were employed, including questionnaire pre-testing, validation, and real-time monitoring of responses. To ensure a representative sample, demographic quotas were set, and data weighted by area of the state, gender, age, and education.

This survey uses aggregated data to analyze the opinions of BIPOC residents in comparison to the opinions of residents who identify as white and not another race. BIPOC residents are not a monolith; the grouping represents a wide diversity of races and ethnicities. The findings included in this memo should not be construed such that all people of color are believed to share the same opinions. Disaggregated race data will be provided when sample sizes permit reliability.

The question numbers in this document correspond with the questionnaire, which can be downloaded using the link at the bottom of the page (Q34-Q36).

Vaccination Rates

  • Statewide, 67% of respondents reported having received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, which is in line with the 67.8% statewide vaccination rate reported by the Oregon Health Authority on July 14th, the day the survey closed (Q34)[1].
  • Older Oregonians are more likely to have received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, with those 55 years old and over vaccinated at a significantly higher rate than younger Oregonians (80-91% vs. 52-67%). Oregonians age 75 and over are the most likely to have received the vaccine, while those between the ages of 30-44 are the least likely to be vaccinated (91% and 52%, respectively). Interestingly, Oregonians between the ages of 18 and 29 are slightly more likely to have received at least one dose of the vaccine than 30-44 year-olds (56% vs. 52%), and also twice as likely to say they are unsure whether they have received at least one dose of the vaccine (4% vs. 2%).
  • There are significant differences in vaccination rates by geography. The Tri-County area has the highest vaccination rate (77%). Oregonians living in areas outside the Tri-County and Willamette Valley areas are nearly twice as likely as those in the Tri-County area to say they have not received a COVID-19 vaccine (42%). These differences are not all that surprising in light of an OVBC survey conducted in December of 2020 in which Oregonians from the Tri-County area were more likely than those from the rest of the state to say they would get the vaccine as soon as it became available (69% vs. 44%), reported higher levels of concern about COVID-19 (52% vs. 35%), and were more likely to say that if the vaccine were available at no cost to them they would agree to be vaccinated (68% vs. 53%)[2].
  • The largest disparity in vaccination rates is by social ideology. People who identify as socially conservatives are more than four times as likely to say they have not received a COVID-19 vaccine compared to those who identify as socially liberal (56% and 13%, respectively). Vaccination rates for Oregonians who identify as socially moderate are more similar to those of their conservative peers than their liberal peers (54% for moderate; 42% for conservative; 87% for liberal).
  • Other than social ideology, the biggest divide in vaccination rates is by educational attainment. 90% of Oregonians with at least a 4-year college degree report having received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, while only 47% of Oregonians with a high school degree or less.
  •  Like national trends, there are differences  along partisan lines. 90% of registered Democrats report being vaccinated compared to just 53% of Republicans. 64% of Oregonians that identify with neither major party report being vaccinated.
  • Interestingly, men and women were nearly identical in their rates of vaccination status and uncertainty, varying by only a single percentage point in those who have received a vaccine (67% vs. 66%) and those who have not (31% vs. 32%).

How Likely are Unvaccinated Oregonians to get Vaccinated in the Future?

  • We asked Oregonians that had not yet been vaccinated how likely they were to get vaccinated in the future. Only 18% of unvaccinated Oregonians reported that they were “very likely” or “somewhat likely” to get the vaccine. 74% of unvaccinated residents said it was “not very likely” or “not likely at all” that they would receive the vaccine, and only 8% were unsure. The majority of those who said they are unlikely to get the vaccine said it is not at all likely rather than not very likely (60% vs. 14%). Such a high level of certainty indicates most Oregonians are not unvaccinated simply because of a lack of opportunity but rather as a deliberative choice (Q35).
  • We asked Oregonians that had not yet been vaccinated how likely they were to get vaccinated in the future. Only 18% of unvaccinated Oregonians reported that they were “very likely” or “somewhat likely” to get the vaccine. 74% of unvaccinated residents said it was “not very likely” or “not likely at all” that they would receive the vaccine, and only 8% were unsure. The majority of those who said they are unlikely to get the vaccine said it is not at all likely rather than not very likely (60% vs. 14%). Such a high level of certainty indicates most Oregonians are not unvaccinated simply because of a lack of opportunity but rather as a deliberative choice (Q35).
  • Oregonians age 18-29 were the most likely to say they would likely get vaccinated in the future (31%). Not one unvaccinated Oregonian age 75 and over said they were very or somewhat likely to get vaccinated in the future. Oregonians age 45-54 were more likely than their peers to say they are unsure whether they will get vaccinated (12%).
  • Oregonians living in the Tri-County area who have not received a COVID-19 vaccine were more likely than those living in the Willamette Valley or the rest of the state to say they are likely to get vaccinated in the future (28% vs. 11% and 16%, respectively).
  • Among unvaccinated Oregonians, political party affiliation has a strong correlation with the likelihood of future vaccination. Compared to Republicans, Democrats are nearly three times more likely and Oregonians who are not affiliated with either party are more than twice as likely to say they are likely to get vaccinated (Republicans: 9%; Democrats: 26%; Independent/Other: 21%). Democrats are much more likely to say they are unsure whether they will get vaccinated (16%).

Why Oregonians are Not Getting Vaccinated

  • When asked their reasons for not getting vaccinated, concerns about the safety of COVID vaccines were by far the most influential in people’s decision not to get vaccinated. Worries about long-term side effects were the most likely to be rated as the number one reason for not getting vaccinated (20%), as well as the most likely to be rated in the top three reasons for not getting vaccinated (57%). Concerns that the vaccine was developed too quickly was ranked the top reason by 17% of unvaccinated Oregonians and ranked in the top three reasons by 47% of Oregonians. About one third ranked concerns that the vaccine is not safe and worries about short-term side effects in the top three reasons why they are not vaccinated (34% and 33%, respectively). All other reasons were ranked in the top three by less than 20% of unvaccinated Oregonians (Q36).
  • A second tier of reasons for not getting vaccinated were ranked among the top three by more than 10% but less than 20% of those who have not been vaccinated. These reasons include beliefs that COVID-19 is not a threat (18%), that the vaccine is not effective (17%), people that don’t want to be told what to do (16%), are afraid of needles (14%), and those who have already had the COVID-19 virus (12%).
  • A third tier includes those reasons that were ranked as the top three by fewer than 10% of Oregonians who have not received a COVID vaccine. 10% of these respondents are not getting vaccinated because herd immunity makes it unnecessary. The least common reasons for not getting vaccinated were the inability to access the vaccine due to work or travel restrictions, and religious objection, which were each ranked in the top three reasons by 6% of unvaccinated Oregonians.

Other Reasons

A final group of respondents chose “other” as one of their top three reasons, at which point they were asked to explain their reason in their own words. “Other” was ranked in the top 3 reasons by 16% of those asked, but the reasons listed were not unified, although several themes emerged.

Many Oregonians cited a lack of trust in pharmaceutical companies, the vaccine development and approval process, and in the U.S. government as their reason for not getting vaccinated

“Worried about trials done. I’m not a test subject and I don’t know what the ingredients are.”

Female, age 18-29, Yamhill County, white or Caucasian

“Manufacturers are not liable for injury or adverse events.”

Female, age 30-44, Klamath County, Native American or American Indian and white or Caucasian

“This is not a vaccine. It is an experimental gene therapy drug. I chose not to be a guinea pig.”

Male, age 65-74, Deschutes County, Hispanic/Latino/a/x and white or Caucasian

“Government influence destroys the effectiveness of any medical procedure. Don’t trust Uncle Biden.”

Male, age 65-74, Lane County, Other race or ethnicity

“Vaccinated people are still dying so it’s obviously not working right.”

Female, age 30-44, Clackamas County, white or Caucasian

Medical conditions and concerns were also a common reason for not getting vaccinated

“I have health issues that prevent me from getting it.”

Female, age 30-44, Josephine County, white or Caucasian

“Worried about effects on pre-existing health problems.”

Female, age 30-44, Klamath County, Hispanic/Latino/a/x, Native American or American Indian, and white or Caucasian

“Pregnant.”

Female, age 30-44, Wasco County, Native American or American Indian and white or Caucasian

The third theme that emerged in people’s reasoning centered around a belief that vaccination is unnecessary

“Strong immune system.”

Male, age 30-44, Clackamas County, white or Caucasian

“It’s a virus, who cares, I’m young.”

Male, age 18-29, Marion County, white or Caucasian

“Social distance has been effective so far.”

Female, age 18-29, Multnomah County, white or Caucasian

“Haven’t even had a cold in 3 years.”

Female, age 45-54, Multnomah County, white or Caucasian

“My extremely small net benefit of vaccine does not outweigh the extremely small risk of COVID-19.”

Male, age 55-64, Yamhill County, white or Caucasian

Demographic Trends

Identifying What Unites Us and Understanding What Divides Us

Generally, there are statistically significant subgroup differences between BIPOC and white Oregonians, as well as by geographic area description, but for the most part, they are not substantial. The findings are reported to inform public education and communications.

  • Black, Indigenous, or other Oregonians of color are less likely than white Oregonians to have received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine (59% vs. 68%)(Q34). Of those Oregonians who are unvaccinated, Black, Indigenous, and other Oregonians of color and white Oregonians are almost identical in their likelihood that they will get vaccinated in the future (19% vs. 18%)(Q35).
  • Unvaccinated Black, Indigenous, and other Oregonians of color are even more likely than their white peers to list concerns about long-term side effects (67% vs. 56%), that the vaccine was developed too quickly (54% vs. 46%), and short-term side effects (38% vs. 32%) as top reasons for not getting vaccinated. BIPOC Oregonians are less likely than white Oregonians to rank “the vaccine is not safe” (28% vs. 35%) or “COVID-19 is not a threat” (12% vs. 20%) among their top three reasons(Q36).
  • Oregonians living in suburban and urban areas of the state have higher rates of vaccination (74% and 69%, respectively)than those living in rural and rural-changing-to-suburban areas (57%, each)(Q34).
  • Oregonians living in rural areas are significantly more likely than those in suburban and rural-changing-to-suburban areas to say they are unlikely to get vaccinated (85% vs. 65-67%), with those from urban areas falling about halfway between (76%) (Q35).
  • The most notable differences in reasons for not getting vaccinated between urban, suburban, rural-changing-to-suburban, and rural areas were in their level of concern about short-term side effects and whether they consider COVID-19 a threat. Half of unvaccinated Oregonians living in areas described as rural-changing-to-suburban rank worry about short-term side effects as a top reason for not getting vaccinated (50%), but these worries are among the top reasons for less than a quarter of those living in urban and rural areas (24% and 23%, respectively) (Q36). Unvaccinated Oregonians living in urban areas are the most likely to list “COVID-19 is not a threat” as one of their top reasons (27%), compared to 19% of those living in rural areas, and an identical 13% of those living in suburban and rural-changing-to-suburban areas.


[1] Vaccination Rates Dashboard; Oregon Health Authority
[2] Survey Conducted December 4-8, 2020; OVBC; n=615

This research was completed as a community service by the Oregon Values and Beliefs Center, an independent and non-partisan organization. OVBC is an Oregon charitable nonprofit corporation (www.oregonvbc.org).

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