Background The COVID-19 vaccination campaign in the US has been immensely successful in vaccinating those who are receptive, further increases in vaccination rates however will require more innovative approaches to reach those who remain hesitant. Developing vaccination strategies that are modelled on what people want could further increase uptake. Methods and findings To inform COVID-19 vaccine distribution strategies that are aligned with public preferences we conducted a discrete choice experiment among the US public (N = 2,895) between March 15 to March 22, 2021. We applied sampling weights, evaluated mean preferences using mixed logit models, and identified latent class preference subgroups. On average, the public prioritized ease, preferring single to two dose vaccinations (mean preference: -0.29; 95%CI: -0.37 to -0.20), vaccinating once rather than annually (mean preference: -0.79; 95% CI: -0.89 to -0.70) and reducing waiting times at vaccination sites. Vaccine enforcement reduced overall vaccine acceptance (mean preference -0.20; 95%CI: -0.30 to -0.10), with a trend of increasing resistance to enforcement with increasing vaccine hesitancy. Latent class analysis identified four distinct preference phenotypes: The first prioritized inherent "vaccine features"(46.1%), the second were concerned about vaccine "service delivery"(8.8%), a third group desired "social proof"of vaccine safety and were susceptible to enforcement (13.2%), and the fourth group were "indifferent"to vaccine and service delivery features and resisted enforcement (31.9%). Conclusions This study identifies several critical insights for the COVID-19 public health response. First, identifying preference segments is essential to ensure that vaccination services meet the needs of diverse population subgroups. Second, making vaccination easy and promoting autonomy by simplifying services and offering the public choices (where feasible) may increase uptake in those who remain deliberative. And, third vaccine mandates have the potential to increase vaccination rates in susceptible groups but may simultaneously promote control aversion and resistance in those who are most hesitant.