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.
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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.
The AP-NORC poll of 1,308 adults was conducted July 15-19 using a sample drawn from NORC's probability-based AmeriSpeak Panel, which is designed to be representative of the U.S. population. The margin of sampling error for all respondents is plus or minus 3.7 percentage points.
Is the tide turning as numbers rise?
Republican lawmakers are under increasing pressure to persuade vaccine skeptics to roll up their sleeves and take the shots as new, more contagious COVID-19 variants send caseloads soaring.
Alabama Republican Gov. Kay Ivey has called out "the unvaccinated folks" for the rise in Covid-19 cases in her state, a remarkable plea at a time when many GOP leaders are refusing to urge people to get vaccinated even as Covid-19 cases surge in many parts of the country.
"Folks are supposed to have common sense. But it's time to start blaming the unvaccinated folks, not the regular folks. It's the unvaccinated folks that are letting us down," Ivey told reporters in Birmingham.