The majority of unvaccinated people believe the vaccine is more dangerous than COVID

unvaccinated people covid story
Photo via Jernej Furman/Flickr (CC BY 2.0)

A new Kaiser Family Foundation study, examining attitudes among unvaccinated people, shows that a majority question the COVID-19 vaccines’ efficacy and even believe that the vaccines pose a greater health threat than COVID-19 itself.

The findings indicate how dug in attitudes are among the so-called “vaccine-hesitant” in the United States—holdouts that caused national vaccination rates to plateau before a recent jump in vaccines over the past two weeks.

According to the study, which compared attitudes of vaccinated and unvaccinated people, a narrow majority of unvaccinated adults—53%—believe the vaccine poses a bigger health risk than COVID-19 itself. Meanwhile, a substantial majority of vaccinated adults—88%—believe that the virus that has killed more than 600,000 Americans is more dangerous than vaccines that have been in circulation for about eight months.

The study reports that while some unvaccinated adults believe the vaccines are “extremely” or “very” effective at preventing death (23%), serious illness or hospitalization (21%), or getting infected after exposure (13%), those who are actually vaccinated are at least three times as likely to believe those outcomes.

Furthermore, the survey found a divide in what people believe regarding media coverage of the pandemic.

Most unvaccinated people—57%—maintain the COVID news has been “generally exaggerated” regarding the pandemic. Meanwhile, 77% of vaccinated adults believe media coverage has either been on target or has actually downplayed the seriousness of COVID-19. Among those who say they will “definitely not” get a vaccine, three out of four say the news is exaggerated.

Millions of people, meanwhile, say nothing—not even their own doctor—could convince them to get the vaccine.

The New York Times, in an article exploring the vaccination holdouts, grouped them into two general camps.

The first is characterized as “those who say they are adamant in their refusal of the coronavirus vaccines; they include a mix of people but tend to be disproportionately white, rural, evangelical Christian, and politically conservative.”

The second is comprised of “a broad range of people, but tend to be a more diverse and urban group, including many younger people, Black and Latino Americans, and Democrats,” who are “open to getting a shot but have been putting it off or want to wait and see before making a decision.”

Effects of the delta variant are paramount in campaigns to reach that second group. CNN reported on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention messaging, which boils down to the idea that though there will be breakthrough infections, most of the vaccinated people who get infected with COVID won’t be hospitalized.

“I think we all have to recognize that with 164 million people who are vaccinated, we should expect tens of thousands, perhaps, of breakthrough infections,” said CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky in an Aug. 4 interview on the cable channel. “Those breakthrough infections have mild illness. They are staying out of the hospital. They are not dying, and I think that that’s the most important thing to understand.”

The U.S. is on the cusp of having more than half its citizenry vaccinated, with 49.9% inoculated as of Aug. 4.

The survey finds that the numbers will go up, if not by as much as public health officials would want. A quarter of unvaccinated adults, or 8% of all adults, reported it is likely they will get a COVID-19 vaccine by the end of the year—including 45% of those in the “wait and see” group.

Said KFF President and CEO Drew Altman: “Seeing their friends get sick and local hospitals fill up again with COVID patients may speed them along and add to their ranks.”

Read more on the coronavirus vaccines:

Sources: KFF, New York Times, CNN

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