Gartner Research

Consumer Pulse: Willingness to Vaccinate in the U.S. Is Tempered by Evolving Safety Concerns

Published: 25 February 2021


These findings can help executive leaders craft product and marketing strategies, HR and communications policies and decisions about managing back-office and client-facing workplaces.

Executives trying to anticipate customer and employee needs in the wake of newly available COVID-19 vaccines should consider the signals emerging from our monthly U.S. consumer sentiment surveys. Participants have grown gradually more optimistic — but are still very cautious — about returning to prepandemic levels of social, recreational, educational and workplace activities. They worry about the spread of new variants and that the vaccinated population will disregard safety guidelines. And they told us what sources of information will influence their attitudes and decisions.

Eight in 10 (79%) respondents to our February Gartner Consumer Community survey on vaccine sentiment told us they are willing to take a safe vaccine if it’s available.

That’s down from a peak of 87% in January, but it’s slightly higher than in December (75%).

Although about one in 10 have consistently said over the last three months that they will never get vaccinated, more than half of respondents in both January and February told us they would get vaccinated as soon as they could (see Figure 1).

  • The undecideds have fallen from a quarter of all respondents in November to just one in 10 in February.

  • Those who said they already received at least one dose reached 14% in February.

Figure 1. How Consumers Feel About Receiving A COVID-19 Vaccine

When consumers are asked to imagine their future fully vaccinated selves venturing out into the world, they reflect continuing caution. In February, only 15% said they would take off their masks (see Figure 2).

About a quarter would be willing to:

  • Return to working in an office or shared space (28%)

  • Physically greet others (26%)

  • Send children back to school (26%)

But over the last three months, the trend lines reflect a gradual increase in anticipated post inoculation change. Most notably:

  • Almost half (49%) are willing to eat indoors at a restaurant.

  • Four in 10 are willing to socialize with others at home (41%), or escape by staying in a hotel (39%) or by getting on an airplane (38%).

Figure 2. Consumer Willingness to Engage in Activities After Receiving a Full Dose of COVID-19 Vaccine

When presented with a list of 35 potential developments each month that could be of concern, this group most commonly selected the state of the economy. That’s still ranked first (see Figure 3).

Two new additions in 2021 instantly entered the top five:

  • The spread of more contagious COVID-19 variants

  • People disregarding COVID-19 safety guidelines after getting a vaccine

The other two in the top five have also been there for the last year:

  • Me or my family getting sick

  • People acting in ways that are NOT in the interest of the larger community

Figure 3. Economics, Getting Sick and COVID-19 Variants Are the Top Consumer Coronavirus Worries

Fifty-seven percent of consumers are confident the vaccine will prevent serious illness or death, while 15% are not. The rest (28%) are somewhere in the middle.

Demographics matter. Differences include:

  • Those living on a low household income of under $50,000 are far less confident (44%) than those earning over $100,000 (71%).

  • Younger people — Generation Z and Millennials — are less confident (52%) than older groups — Baby Boomers and Generation X (60%).

Half of consumers told us they feel knowledgeable about vaccine developments, although almost one in five (18%) did not.

If you are looking to encourage employees to get vaccinated by using information they regard as credible, cite health institutions. Over half (62%) of respondents ranked these as major influences on their thinking about immunizations, just behind their own doctor.

We gave them choices that included typical establishment voices and informal sources such as social media or family and friends (see Figure 4).

President Joe Biden is a new addition to the list; nearly half said he was influential. His predecessor Donald Trump is still authoritative among 14% of surveyed consumers. Faith leaders and social media sites were rated lowest.

Figure 4. Doctors and Health Institutions Top List of Consumer Vaccine Influencers

Compiled by Theresa Peterson, Tim Barlow and Daniel Ryntjes

Contact with any questions or comments.

Recommended by the Authors

(Employee-Centered Paths to Growth)


While Gartner Consumer Community (n ≈ 450) resembles the U.S. general population, the data presented above is based on the responses of community members who chose to take this individual activity (n = 251). This sample may not be representative of the general population and the data should only be used for directional insights.

Gartner Consumer Community, 16-19 February 2021

, Gartner.


Consumer and Culture Insights Team

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