Delta Variant Surge May Make Unvaccinated Americans Less Likely To Get The Shot, Poll Finds
Public health officials have encouraged Americans to get vaccinated to protect themselves against the highly transmissible Delta variant now surging in the U.S.—but a new Harris poll finds the variant and misplaced concerns over Covid-19 vaccines’ efficacy against it have made a majority of unvaccinated Americans instead question whether they should get the shot.
The Harris poll, conducted July 9-11 among 2,003 U.S. adults, found 62% of unvaccinated respondents believe “the Delta variant makes me second guess whether I should even get vaccinated.”
Those fears appear to be driven by concerns over how well Covid-19 vaccines protect against the variant—even though all three approved vaccines are broadly effective against the Delta strain—and 51% of vaccinated respondents said the variant makes them question the efficacy of their vaccine.
A majority of total respondents (65%) believe vaccination rates will slow down in light of a recent Israeli study, which suggested the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine has a much lower degree of protection against infection and symptomatic illness than other studies had.
The poll found unvaccinated Americans are less worried about the variant overall than their vaccinated peers: 53% of unvaccinated respondents said people are “overreacting” about the variant as compared with 40% of those who have received the shot.
Unvaccinated Americans were also more likely to say the Delta variant is no more dangerous than other strains of the coronavirus, with 53% believing that as compared with 42% of vaccinated respondents.
The variant has not made most vaccinated Americans regret their decision to get the shot, with only 33% of vaccinated respondents saying the Delta variant “makes me second guess getting vaccinated in the first place.”
Studies indicate the Delta variant is at least moderately resistant to all Covid-19 vaccines in use across the U.S., with a significant drop in protection for those who have had only received one shot. For fully vaccinated people this drop is more modest, though still notable, and there is not yet scientific consensus on an exact figure. Data from Israel’s health ministry noted a particularly dramatic drop in the efficacy of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, which the country has used widely. It found the shot to be just 64% effective at preventing infection and symptomatic illness caused by Delta, down from previous estimates of nearly 90%. The study did not, however, take the steps needed to rule out other explanations for higher case rates among vaccinated people and cannot be taken as conclusive. Though protection against mild illness and infection from Delta may be reduced, the vaccines are still highly effective at their primary task: preventing serious illness, hospitalization and death from Covid-19.
55.7%. That’s the percentage of the total U.S. population that’s received at least one dose of the Covid-19 vaccine as of Thursday, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The country fell short of President Joe Biden’s goal of 70% of adults receiving at least a first dose by July 4 (67.8% have now been inoculated), and there are still 18 states where less than 50% of residents are even partially vaccinated.
What To Watch For
Over the course of around two months, the Delta variant has gone from causing practically no U.S. cases to being the country’s dominant virus strain, accounting for nearly 90% of cases in some areas. It is more infectious than the previous dominant strain—between 40-60%—though it is not yet clear whether it is capable of causing more serious illness. Covid-19 cases in the U.S. are now on the rise after declining in light of rising vaccinations, and public health officials have warned unvaccinated Americans and areas with lower vaccination rates are at particular risk of the variant’s spread. More states and localities are starting to reimpose restrictions or recommend people take increased caution as the variant gains steam, and the World Health Organization has encouraged even fully vaccinated people to wear masks and social distance. The CDC has maintained it will not change its mask guidance in light of the Delta variant, however, believing fully vaccinated people are still protected against Covid-19 and do not need to wear a mask indoors.
Declining vaccine efficacy and a highly contagious variant has prompted countries around the world to consider ways of elevating waning immunity against the coronavirus. Some, including Vietnam and Thailand, are mixing shots made with different technologies in the hopes of provoking a stronger immune response. Others, such as Israel, are administering a third vaccine shot to immunocompromised individuals as a booster. Though manufacturers are working on booster shots for fully vaccinated people in general—going so far as to publicly urge U.S. regulators to authorize them—senior public health officials say there is no data to support their use at the moment.
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