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COVID-19 vaccine hesitancy persists. Why?

March 10, 2021 | Pharmacy

An unknown person receives a COVID-19 vaccination.

Data and real-life testimonies are critical to building trust. Here’s what we’re doing.

While widespread vaccinations offer the best hope for controlling COVID-19, hesitancy is growing — especially in Black and Latinx communities. According to a CVS survey, 51% of Latinx respondents worry about harmful side effects and 35% of Black respondents are not planning to get vaccinated.

Although the pandemic disproportionately harms communities of color, historical experiences of injustice and current health care disparities are proving difficult to overcome.

“It’s impossible for me to separate the history of how this country has treated my community with the present-day reality of the rates at which Black people are dying from COVID-19. Both truths are equally terrifying,” says Jewell Singletary, a business owner who is taking a wait-and-see approach to getting vaccinated.

“Vaccine hesitancy is incredibly important for us to understand and address head-on,” says Sree Chaguturu, M.D., SVP, CVS Health and Chief Medical Officer, CVS Caremark. “The data underscore the importance of our commitment to monitor equity in vaccine distribution and help support education and access.”


Widespread vaccinations offer the best hope for ending the pandemic but many Americans are hesitant to get vaccinated.

38% of Americans want to get vaccinated as soon as possible:

  • 54% say a vaccine is important “for life to return to normal”

  • 36% say COVID-19 is worse than possible side effects

  • 31% say health care workers have gotten the vaccine safely

24% of Americans say they will not get vaccinated:

  • 44% have concerns about vaccine safety and potential side effects

  • 30% don’t “like the idea of people being used as an experimental group”

  • 20% do not believe that vaccines work against COVID-19

Source: CVS Health national survey, January 2021


Defeating vaccine hesitancy requires reliable data from trusted sources. That’s why Dr. Tichianaa Armah overcame her own hesitancy. To show that COVID-19 vaccines are safe, she posted a video of herself receiving her vaccine and administers the vaccine to others.

“Representation matters,” she says. “I got the vaccine so that my patients will see that I am OK, and that they can go and safely get the vaccine, as well.”

Dr. Tichianaa Armah, Chief Psychiatry Officer at Community Health Inc.
Dr. Tichianaa Armah, Chief Psychiatry Officer at Community Health Inc. with her vaccination card

The vaccines’ speed to market also left many wondering whether they are safe and effective. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) answers yes to both questions, but trusted data can get lost in a sea of misinformation.

To answer lingering questions, CVS Health is partnering with community organizations and nonprofits to increase access to COVID-19 vaccinations and education in vulnerable communities and also expanded vaccine distribution to pharmacies in 17 states.

"We are committed to reaching people of color and underserved communities to ensure health equity as we work to vaccinate all Americans," said Karen S. Lynch, President and CEO, CVS Health.

CVS Pharmacy Manager Hiba Betka says a top concern she hears is that the vaccines were rushed to market.

“We explain that the vaccines are safe and effective, that their efficacy is proven” she says. Being vaccinated herself adds reassurance to potential patients: “They know that I believe it, because I’ve received my vaccine.”