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Community Education Toolkit

Core Insights

Nearly half of the American population is undecided or has concerns about receiving the COVID-19 vaccines—and this gap in confidence is particularly pronounced in some of the communities hit hardest by the pandemic.

Research Summary

Extensive qualitative and quantitative research conducted by the Ad Council and other partners found that the key concerns behind low vaccine confidence were safety, side effects, lack of information, and the speed of the clinical trials.

Research Insights

Roots of Low Confidence

Overall, 50% of the general public falls into the “movable middle,” people who range from skeptical to open but uncertain. This low confidence is linked to significant gaps in trust—and those gaps are more pronounced among Black Americans and Hispanics who have also been disproportionately affected by COVID-19.

Safety and side effects

Because of the speed of the clinical development process and the vaccines’ novelty, people are concerned about vaccine safety and potential side effects.

Knowledge gaps

A significant portion of the general public says they do not feel confident they have enough information to decide whether to get vaccinated.

Widespread distrust

Many people do not trust the political and economic motives of the government and corporations. This is partially why health experts will play an integral role in COVID-19 vaccine education.


People are looking for clear, straightforward answers to their questions. Understand their motivations and concerns, acknowledge them, and explain why the vaccines are safe. Relatively few people have an in-depth understanding of how vaccines are developed and tested and how they help protect from severe COVID-19.

Audience Characteristics

Public attitudes in favor of COVID-19 vaccination far outweigh negative attitudes, but significant gaps remain. This distrust is especially pronounced among Black Americans and Hispanics.

General public

Half of the general public falls into the movable middle. These individuals want to know if the vaccines are safe and that the benefits outweigh any potential risks.

Black Americans

Black American uncertainty is linked to historical unethical practices in medical research and care. They share the same safety concerns and distrust as other Americans.


Hispanics who have low vaccine intent lack confidence in the information they’ve received. They are also concerned about safety and distrust government and corporate motives.


Provide factual information to help all audiences make an informed decision on whether to get vaccinated, and keep in mind that this is a choice that is theirs to make. Highlight how vaccines are a path for helping us to get back to life and the everyday moments we miss.

Trusted Messengers

The messenger is just as important as the message — and messengers who have personal touchpoints and health care expertise are the most influential.

Healthcare providers

Medical experts, personal doctors and other health care providers are generally the most trusted sources of information for COVID-19 vaccine information and advice.

Health institutions

Health agencies and institutions like the CDC carry credibility, but overall, it may be better to feature individual experts.

Personal connections

Word of mouth from trusted people like family, friends and neighbors is a powerful form of “social proof” that will help motivate individuals to get vaccinated.


Celebrities can be useful when they partner with health experts to expand the reach of educational information.


Ensure trusted messengers have the accurate information they need to effectively communicate with their networks. Personal testimonies and anecdotes may also help instill vaccine confidence.

Download the Report

This report summarizes core insights based on extensive qualitative and quantitative research.