Delta’s massive surge still hasn’t convinced unvaccinated Americans that the virus is riskier than vaccines

As the hypercontagious Delta variant crosses under-vaccinated parts of the United States and shatters hospital records in hot spots such as Florida and Louisiana, more and more unvaccinated Americans continue to say vaccines COVID-19 pose a greater risk to their health than the virus, according to a new Yahoo News / YouGov poll.

In fact, that number has actually increased since Delta exploded onto the scene – a worrying sign that even increasing infection and disease may not be enough to raise America’s average vaccination rate to a level that could. prevent future variants from doing the kind of damage Delta is doing today.

A survey of 1,552 American adults, conducted from July 30 to August 2, found that 40% of those still unvaccinated now believe that COVID-19 vaccines, which are among the safest ever produced, are a greater threat to their personal well-being than COVID-19 itself – even though more than 52,000 Americans are currently hospitalized with the virus, almost all unvaccinated, and more than 615,000 have already died from it.

In mid-July, before Delta took off, that number was lower (37%) – meaning that the further spread of the variant did nothing to persuade most resistant to the near-zero risks of vaccination. are lower than the abundantly documented risks of infection.

Meanwhile, 31% of unvaccinated adults say they still don’t know whether the virus or vaccines pose a greater risk to their health. Only 29% say the virus is more dangerous.

More encouraging vaccination figures emerged during the Delta wave. Over the past month, for example, the average number of new daily doses administered nationwide rose from a low of 433,000 to a respectable 590,000 by August 2 – an increase of 36% and the highest number. high since June. The average first daily doses increased even more – by 88% – during the same period. And, significantly, those gains have been concentrated in the under-vaccinated states that Delta hits the hardest, like Louisiana – strongly suggesting that the variant’s havoc is why some former resisters are finally taking COVID to the fore. serious and decide to protect themselves and others with a safe. and effective vaccine.

Anti-vaccine rally

An anti-vaccine protester outside Houston Methodist Hospital in Houston. (Mark Felix / AFP via Getty Images)

The problem is, today’s numbers, while welcome, are only a fraction of the first 2 million doses the United States administered each day in April. The most recent data also suggests that the new inoculations may level off after adding one or two points to the overall U.S. vaccination rate (which is currently around 58% of the population at least partially vaccinated and 50% fully vaccinated. vaccinated).

If vaccine uptake stalls again, the Yahoo News / YouGov poll could help explain why: Delta may have changed their mind here and there among the unvaccinated – but not that much.

Exactly half of unvaccinated Americans still say they will ‘never’ get vaccinated, for example – statistically indistinguishable from the part who said the same thing in mid-July (51%) and May (48 %). Most of the remaining unvaccinated adults insist they’re still waiting to see how vaccines affect others (21%) or just don’t know what to do (21%) – again, essentially the same at the pre-Delta percentages for May.

When asked last month – before Delta skyrocketed – how the “spread of the more contagious Delta variant” might affect their “likelihood of getting the vaccine,” only 15% said it would make them ” more likely “. That number is exactly the same today, although Delta’s spread has widened significantly in recent weeks.

Likewise, the fraction of unvaccinated adults who say they would be “much more likely” to get vaccinated if COVID cases, hospitalizations, or deaths “started to increase among unvaccinated people in your area” n hasn’t moved either. It was around 11% last month – and it’s still around 11% today.

Anti-vaccine rally protester

A young anti-vaccine in Houston. (Mark Felix / AFP via Getty Images)

Some experts are concerned that recent news about Delta’s ability to cause infections in those vaccinated will undermine confidence in vaccines and discourage their adoption. When asked to rate vaccine performance, more Americans say injections do an “excellent” or “good” job protecting people from hospitalization and death (59%) than saying that they do an “excellent” or “good” job protecting people from infection (52%) or preventing vaccinated people from spreading the virus (44%). It is also true that unvaccinated Americans rate vaccines much more negatively than their vaccinated counterparts, with 29% of the former saying they work “worse than expected” compared to only 9% of the latter.

But the fact is, nearly two-thirds of unvaccinated Americans who say vaccines meet their expectations, too. say they’re doing a “bad” or “right” job of protecting people from infection – meaning unvaccinated Americans don’t seem to have expected much from vaccines in the first place. Even now, only 8% choose “some people vaccinated get COVID-19” as the most important reason they have not yet been vaccinated. Many more (44%) say they “don’t trust COVID-19 vaccines” – the same as last month (45%).

Experts say that to achieve the level of population-wide protection that could prevent future spikes in dangerous variants like Delta, more than 80% of Americans – and maybe even 90% – will need to acquire immunity through the drug. vaccination or infection. Given how little Delta seems to have moved the needle, infection will likely continue to play an inordinate and often tragic role in the future.

One source of hope for vaccination has been young Americans; 12 to 15 year olds have only recently been eligible, and 5 to 12 year olds are expected to qualify in late fall or winter.

But even here the United States seems to be heading in the wrong direction. In May, 59% of parents of children under 18 told Yahoo News and YouGov that they plan to vaccinate their children when injections are fully approved for minors. Today, only 49% – 10 points lower than before – say their children have already been vaccinated (16%) or that they still plan to have them vaccinated after full approval (33%).

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