Exploring vaccine hesitancy among Americans with disabilities

October 19, 2021

Approximately one in three Americans have not received a COVID-19 vaccination, including many people with disabilities who are at higher risk of getting very ill from the disease.

Despite almost all serious cases of COVID occurring in unvaccinated individuals, many people are hesitant about receiving a vaccine. A recent publication in Disability and Health Journal by RTC:Rural researchers shares the results of a survey  to understand why some people were not yet vaccinated.

Parking lot with orange markers and signs COVID VACCINE CLINIC PARKING ONLYPhoto by Joshua Hoehne on Unsplash

What they did:

In their exploratory study, researchers asked people with disabilities about their concerns about COVID-19, vaccines, and vaccine hesitancy.

The survey, fielded between February 11-28, 2021, asked people if they had been vaccinated against COVID-19, and asked reasons why, or why not. It also asked about trust in different sources of information, health literacy, political affiliation, rural/urban locale, and other demographics.

Participants indicated how they felt about the COVID-19 vaccines, such as if the vaccines were developed too quickly, if politics influenced development, if the vaccines were too new, if the vaccines would be effective, or if they were concerned about possible side-effects. 

Summary of findings:

Most people who hadn’t been vaccinated said they hadn’t done so out of a concern about the safety of the vaccines, even after controlling for other factors like age, gender, health literacy, race/ethnicity, employment, income, or being a rural resident. By contrast, those who had been vaccinated were primarily more concerned about getting infected with COVID-19 and reported more trust in experts.


Many people with disabilities may view the vaccine as being less safe than becoming infected with the COVID-19 virus. More accessible information about vaccine safety relative to the risk of COVID-19, written in plain language and tailored to specific disabilities, might increase peoples’ willingness to be vaccinated and improve public health.

Read the full paper here:

COVID-19 vaccination hesitancy among Americans with disabilities aged 18-65: An exploratory analysis