Poll: Most unvaccinated Americans don’t want the shots

Most Americans who haven’t been vaccinated against COVID-19 say they are unlikely to get the shots and doubt they would work against the aggressive delta variant despite evidence they do, according to a new poll that underscores the challenges facing public health officials amid soaring infections in some states.

Among American adults who have not yet received a vaccine, 35% say they probably will not, and 45% say they definitely will not, according to a poll from The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research. Just 3% say they definitely will get the shots, though another 16% say they probably will.

What’s more, 64% of unvaccinated Americans have little to no confidence the shots are effective against variants—including the delta variant that officials say is responsible for 83% of new cases in the U.S.—despite evidence that they offer strong protection. In contrast, 86% of those who have already been vaccinated have at least some confidence that the vaccines will work.

That means “that there will be more preventable cases, more preventable hospitalizations and more preventable deaths,” said Dr. Amesh Adalja, an infectious disease specialist at Johns Hopkins University.

“We always knew some proportion of the population would be difficult to persuade no matter what the data showed, (and) a lot of people are beyond persuasion,” said Adalja. He echoed Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Rochelle Walensky in calling the current surge “a pandemic of the unvaccinated” because nearly all hospital admissions and deaths have been among those who weren’t immunized.

The AP-NORC survey was conducted before several Republicans and conservative cable news personalities this week urged people to get vaccinated after months of stoking hesitancy. That effort comes as COVID-19 cases nearly tripled in the U.S. over the past two weeks.

Nationally, 56.4% of all Americans, including children, have received at least one dose of the vaccine, according to the CDC. And White House officials said Thursday that vaccinations are beginning to increase in some states where rates are lagging behind and COVID-19 cases are rising, including in Arkansas, Florida, Louisiana, Missouri and Nevada.

Still, just over 40% of Louisiana’s population has received at least one dose, and the state reported 5,388 new COVID-19 cases Wednesday—the third-highest single-day figure since the pandemic began. Hospitalizations also rose steeply in the last month.

The AP-NORC survey found that the majority of Americans—54%—are at least somewhat concerned that they or someone in their family will be infected, including 27% who are very concerned. That’s up slightly from a month ago, but far below the beginning of the year, when about 7 in 10 Americans said they were at least somewhat concerned that they or someone they knew would be infected.

Democrats are far more likely than Republicans to say they’re at least somewhat concerned about someone close to them being infected, 70% to 38%.

And overall, Republicans are far more likely than Democrats to say they have not been vaccinated and definitely or probably won’t be, 43% to 10%. Views are also divided along age and education lines: Thirty-seven percent of those under age 45 say they haven’t and likely won’t get the shots, compared with just 16% of those older. And those without college degrees are more likely than those with them to say they aren’t and won’t be vaccinated, 30% to 18%.

Cody Johansen, who lives near Orlando, Florida, considers himself a conservative Republican, but said that had no bearing on his decision to skip vaccination.

“It hasn’t really been that dangerous to people in my demographic, and I have a good immune system,” said Johansen, a 26-year-old who installs audio-visual equipment at military bases. “Most of my friends got vaccinated, and they’re a little mad at me for not getting it. There is peer pressure because they say it’s a civic responsibility.”

He said it’s obvious the shots have been effective, though it bothers him a little that they have only emergency use authorization from the Food and Drug Administration.

Johansen said he approves of how President Joe Biden has handled the pandemic response, saying he has exhibited good leadership.

That reflects the poll’s findings. A large majority of Americans, 66%, continue to approve of how Biden is handling the pandemic—higher than Biden’s overall approval rating of 59%.

The difference is fueled largely by Republicans, 32% of whom say they approve of Biden’s handling of COVID-19 compared with 15% who approve of him overall. About 9 in 10 Democrats approve of Biden overall and for his handling of the pandemic.

Jessie McMasters, an aerospace engineer who lives near Rockford, Illinois, said she got her first shot when she was 37 weeks pregnant after talking with her midwife and reading about how the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines were developed.

“That gave me high confidence that they worked,” said McMasters. Her parents both were infected but did not suffer serious illness, and both have since been vaccinated.

She said her friends and family are all over the place when it comes to their views on vaccination and other virus-prevention measures—often reflecting how such discussions have become partisan. Some who got it are “so far on one end that they may never give up masks because now it’s a personal statement,” said McMasters, who leans Democratic, just as others won’t get the shots because of their political beliefs or misinformation.

Dr. Howard Koh, a professor at the Harvard Chan School of Public Health, said vaccine hesitancy is not new, but the misinformation surrounding COVID-19 and the fast-spreading variant make it imperative to reach people one-on-one to understand their concerns and provide accurate information.

He called the new surge in infections and deaths “just heartbreaking.”

“What I learned from my patients is that when a loved one dies, that’s a tragedy,” said Koh, who was a senior public health official in the Obama administration. “But when a loved one dies and you know it could have been prevented, that tragedy haunts you forever.”

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11 thoughts on “Poll: Most unvaccinated Americans don’t want the shots

  1. As soon as full FDA approval comes, it’s time to start vaccine mandates for various activities. I’d start with flying, sporting events, and schools. If you want to participate in those activities, get a vaccine. If you don’t, stay home. The rest of us had to stay home and suffer half of last year for your “freedom” to ignore public health orders like wearing a mask. It’s your turn to stay home and not be allowed to enjoy life.

    1. We’ll said Wesley. Totally agree. And that’s what’s going to happen once approved by the FDA.

      On the other hand, natural selection isn’t always a bad thing either. 🙂

    2. The President of France agrees. He’s “locking out” the unvaccinated from trains, planes, restaurants, etc.

    3. I’ve said for a while that those who refuse to be vaccinated should be locked out of ER’s and ICU’s. I’ve got some patience for those who can’t afford the time off work or who can’t get to a vaccination site, but those who don’t want the vaccine and think their bodies can fight it off? I’d rather see someone who took COVID seriously and had a breakthrough infection get that ICU bed.

  2. It is amazing that people feel the vaccine will be approved by the FDA. There are several emergency use authorizations over the last 2 years that haven’t lead to a licensed product from the FDA….

    1. The FDA doesn’t license products. And no drug has accumulated so much data supporting its safety and efficacy as the covid vaccinations have. I predict full authorization for the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines, and approval for the Johnson & Johnson vaccine with a second shot reccommended.

    2. The NY Times says full approval will most likely come sometime in September for the Pfizer vaccine and a little latter for the Moderna vaccine. At this point it just a long tedious paperwork process and nobody is going to cut corners because they want to get this right.

    3. The NY Times??? You believe the Lamestream Media? /sarcasm off.


      Of course it will be approved. It has just undergone the largest open clinical trial in history, and it keeps people from dying… while 95% or more of today’s hospitalizations are of the unvaccinated.

  3. It’s amazing how some have convinced themselves “freedom” is anything more than just being selfish.

    The vaccines work, they keep people from dying, they keep people from passing the virus those who are vulnerable, they reduce the chance that additional variants will rise out of widespread transmission.

    A lot of people have problems understanding statistics (and science for that matter). There is always going to be an exception. Someone will have a bad reaction. There will be some cases of breakthrough transmission. Just because this happens does not mean the issues are widespread or that the vaccines are not overwhelmingly effective. Some media network or crackpot blog will always disingenuously over cover these incidents (psst… Tucker’s vaccinated).