Most Detroiters vaccinated in second half of 2021 were previously unsure about COVID-19 vaccines

A majority of respondents (64.1%) were ’early adopters” of the vacci

A majority of respondents (64.1%) were ’early adopters” of the vaccine and received their first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine by June 2021. Despite waning vaccination rates in the latter half of 2021, more than 10% of Detroit respondents obtained their first dose of a COVID-19 vaccine between June and December of 2021, referred to as ’wait-and-seers.” About one-quarter of respondents in Detroit were ’holdouts” and were still unvaccinated at the end of 2021. Image credit: Detroit Metro Area Communities Study/Poverty Solutions

DETROIT-Nearly a third of a random sample of Detroit adults who had not received any COVID-19 vaccinations in June 2021 obtained their first dose in the second half of last year, according to a new University of Michigan survey.

Most of these adults who waited to vaccinate (80%) had previously reported they were unsure about getting vaccinated or unlikely to vaccinate, indicating that outreach efforts have achieved some success in Detroit.

The most recent findings from the Detroit Metro Area Communities Study explore the uptake of COVID-19 vaccines over time among 1,630 Detroit residents who shared their vaccination status in both the June and December 2021 DMACS surveys, including those who have changed their mind about vaccination over time and those who remain unvaccinated.

A majority of respondents (64%) were "early adopters” of the vaccine and received their first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine by June 2021. Despite waning vaccination rates in the latter half of last year, more than 10% of Detroit respondents ("wait-and-seers”) obtained their first dose of a COVID-19 vaccine between June and December 2021. About a quarter of respondents in Detroit were "holdouts” and were still unvaccinated at the end of last year.

"While many of the more persuadable respondents may have already been vaccinated, it is important to note that quite a few respondents who initially indicated they were very unlikely to vaccinate did eventually obtain a COVID-19 vaccination,” said Lydia Wileden , a doctoral candidate at U-M and research associate at DMACS. "This suggests there is room for persuasion even among those with little inclination to vaccinate.”

Parents were especially likely to delay the first dose of their COVID-19 vaccine. Seventeen percent of parents, compared to only 8% of nonparents, opted to wait until the latter half of 2021 to vaccinate. This difference between parents and nonparents was on top of a 30-percentage-point difference between the number of parents and nonparents who were early adopters of the COVID-19 vaccine (see The Link Between Parents’ and Children’s Vaccination in Detroit ).

White Detroiters were also significantly more likely to be early adopters of the vaccine (82%), compared to Black residents (62%), Latino residents (63%) and residents who identified as multiracial or as members of other ethnoracial groups (50%).


Importantly, however, Detroit residents of color were nearly three times as likely as white Detroiters to have waited until the latter half of 2021 to vaccinate. Eleven percent of Black respondents and 13% of Latino or other-raced respondents received their first dose of a COVID-19 vaccine between June and December 2021, compared to 4% of white respondents. This suggests vaccination efforts have overcome some early wariness among communities of color, narrowing the vaccination race gap.

"Due to the long storied history that Black people have with institutional racism via health care and government, waiting and observing before acting on a new vaccine is necessary because the trust just isn’t there,” said the Rev. Charles Williams II, pastor of Historic King Solomon Baptist Church in Detroit and president of National Action Network Michigan.

"Although the world and economy are in a hurry to return to pre-pandemic life, the real challenge is exhibiting through public policy the political will to keep mask stigma down, hybrid employment and education options open, and vaccines accessible. This patience will be key in continuing to protect people against COVID-19.”

  • Other key findings include:
  • Compared to wait-and-seers who got vaccinated between June and December 2021, vaccine holdouts were significantly more likely to be concerned about the safety and effectiveness of the vaccine.
  • Respondents who remain unvaccinated were nearly twice as likely (42%) to oppose all vaccines compared to respondents who delayed the timing of their vaccine (23%).
    There is some evidence that those who delayed vaccination but ultimately got vaccinated were more likely to report access issues in June 2021. Marginally more wait-and-seers reported that lack of time, transportation or ability to schedule an appointment contributed to their delayed receipt of the vaccine.


This wave of the survey was conducted in collaboration with, and supported by, Michigan CEAL: Communities Conquering COVID , a community-based participatory research partnership working to enhance knowledge and understanding and reduce COVID-19 inequities among communities most impacted by the pandemic. The research is supported in part by the National Institutes of Health (1 OT2 HL 156812).

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