Skip to main content

First Survey on Medicare Beneficiaries’ Views on COVID-19 Vaccines Finds Majority Willing to Get Vaccinated, yet Key Groups—Blacks, Hispanics, Women, and Smokers—Less Likely

Press Release

Results are available in the new MCBS COVID-19 Data Tool

CHICAGO, Feb. 8, 2021 – The MCBS COVID-19 Data Tool presents findings from the Medicare Current Beneficiary Survey (MCBS) COVID-19 Summer 2020 Supplement and Fall 2020 Supplement Public Use Files (PUF). The surveys collected a range of COVID-19 related data, including beneficiaries’ preventive behaviors, forgone health care, access to telemedicine, attitudes around vaccines, perceptions of the severity of COVID-19, and the pandemic’s impact on both their health and their daily life. The most recent survey was conducted from October 5 through November 15, 2020; a COVID-19 vaccine was not publically available when the MCBS Fall 2020 Community Supplement was fielded.

“The Medicare beneficiary population is at high risk for severe illness or complications from COVID-19, so it’s critical to consider their perspectives. We created this data tool to make it quick and easy to explore their views and experiences around COVID-19,” said Felicia LeClere, senior fellow in the Health Sciences department at NORC at the University of Chicago. “The results were consistent with other surveys on vaccine uptake, but there were a few interesting surprises, such as the findings on racial and ethnic differences in beneficiaries’ perceptions of COVID-19 severity. Despite being less likely to say they would get vaccinated if a vaccine were available, the survey found that Black and Hispanic Medicare beneficiaries were more likely than white beneficiaries to understand that COVID-19 is more contagious and more deadly than the flu.”

The tool comprises a series of interactive dashboards related to how COVID-19 has affected the lives of Medicare beneficiaries. It allows visitors to visualize the data according to demographic and health status filters, making it easy to explore how different subgroups of Medicare beneficiaries have experienced the pandemic. Estimates represent the population of beneficiaries who were continuously enrolled in Medicare from the beginning of 2020 and were alive, living in the community, and eligible and enrolled in Medicare at the time of the MCBS COVID-19 Summer or Fall 2020 Supplement interviews.

Views on COVID-19 Vaccines

  • Like other surveys on Americans’ views on vaccines, the MCBS COVID-19 Fall 2020 Community Supplement found that a majority of Medicare beneficiaries said they would definitely or probably get vaccinated if a vaccine were available.
  • However, the survey found that some groups of beneficiaries were less likely to say they would get vaccinated:
    • 41% of male beneficiaries said they would definitely get a vaccine compared to 29% of female beneficiaries.
    • 38% of beneficiaries with incomes of $25,000 or more said they would definitely get a vaccine compared to 26% of beneficiaries with incomes below $25,000.
    • 36% of white beneficiaries said they would definitely get a vaccine compared to 26% of Hispanic beneficiaries and 20% of Black beneficiaries.
    • 35% of beneficiaries who speak English at home said they would definitely get a vaccine compared to 29% of beneficiaries who speak a language other than English at home.
    • 37% of beneficiaries who are non-smokers said they would definitely get a vaccine compared to 31% of beneficiaries who are smokers.

Perceptions of COVID-19 Severity

  • Nearly all Medicare beneficiaries, 96%, agreed that it is important for everyone to take precautions to prevent the spread of COVID-19, even if they are not in a high-risk group.
  • While a majority, 80%, of beneficiaries agreed that COVID-19 is more deadly than the flu and that it is more contagious than the flu, white beneficiaries were less likely than Black or Hispanic beneficiaries to perceive COVID-19 as more deadly and contagious than the flu:
    • 77% of white beneficiaries agreed that COVID-19 is more deadly than the flu compared to 88% of Hispanic beneficiaries and 90% of Black beneficiaries.
    • 78% of white beneficiaries agreed that COVID-19 is more contagious than the flu compared to 86% of Hispanic beneficiaries and 88% of Black beneficiaries.

About the MCBS COVID-19 Data Tool
The tool presents findings from the MCBS COVID-19 Summer 2020 and Fall 2020 Supplement PUFs. Each dashboard consists of a bar chart presenting outcome variables related to a theme. For example, the dashboard on Preventive Behaviors shows the percent of beneficiaries who have changed their behavior in response to the pandemic. Each dashboard also shows a series of dot plots that dynamically update to show demographic and health factor breakdowns of responses. The dot plots include confidence intervals, which can be used to identify potential meaningful differences between groups. All percentage estimates were calculated using the survey weights supplied in the MCBS COVID-19 Supplement PUFs. Variance estimates were used to derive standard errors, and confidence intervals were calculated using the replicate weights.

For more information, see the data tool’s About page.

About NORC at the University of Chicago

NORC at the University of Chicago conducts research and analysis that decision-makers trust. As a nonpartisan research organization and a pioneer in measuring and understanding the world, we have studied almost every aspect of the human experience and every major news event for more than eight decades. Today, we partner with government, corporate, and nonprofit clients around the world to provide the objectivity and expertise necessary to inform the critical decisions facing society.

Contact: For more information, please contact Eric Young at NORC at or (703) 217-6814 (cell).

About the Medicare Current Beneficiary Survey (MCBS)
The MCBS is an ongoing survey of a representative national sample of the Medicare population, including beneficiaries age 65 and over and beneficiaries age 64 and below with certain disabling conditions. The Office of Enterprise Data and Analytics (OEDA) of the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) sponsors the survey. The MCBS is designed to aid CMS in administering, monitoring, and evaluating the Medicare program. It is essential to provide vital information on beneficiaries that are not otherwise collected through operational or administrative data from the Medicare program. NORC conducts the full range of MCBS survey activities, including sampling, data collection, data processing, editing, imputation, and delivery of files to CMS for final processing and dissemination.

For more information about the MCBS, including the survey’s unique features and the types of data available, see NORC’s project page.