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Perceptions of COVID-19 vaccine side effects

by political affiliation


It is estimated that COVID-19 vaccine programs reduced COVID-19-related deaths by nearly two-thirds globally, saving as many as 19.8 million lives in the 1st year of their availability (8 December 2020–2021).1 However, the public health benefits of COVID-19 vaccines were undermined in countries where hesitancy rates were high, including in the United States during the early phase of the vaccine rollout.2

Among adults in the United States, the likelihood of receiving a COVID-19 vaccine is strongly associated with political affiliation, with Republicans significantly less likely than Democrats to be vaccinated.3,4 Less understood is the role that political affiliation may play in the perceived side effects of the vaccine ‘among those who are vaccinated’. This has important implications, as the experiences of those who are vaccinated may carry heightened influence within a vaccine recipient’s social network, and many vaccine-hesitant adults consider friends and family to be the most trustworthy sources of information.5

To better understand the relationship between political affiliation and COVID-19 vaccine experiences, data were analyzed from a national survey of American adults who identify as either Democrat or Republican, to assess whether political affiliation is associated with (i) subjective appraisals of severity of side effects, (ii) the role that these experiences play in encouraging (or discouraging) others in the respondents’ social network to receive a COVID-19 vaccine and (iii) the vaccine experience of other members of the respondents’ social network.


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