Most unvaccinated Americans say there is nothing that could convince them to get the COVID-19 shots, according to a new Axios/Ipsos survey.
The Axios/Ipsos Coronavirus Index survey found that 30% of U.S. adults said they haven't yet gotten a COVID-19 vaccine, with about half of those who are unvaccinated saying they're "not at all likely" to get vaccinated. Majorities of the unvaccinated said they would remain "not at all likely" to get the vaccine under several circumstances and would not be persuaded by ease of access in their own doctor's office, a celebrity endorsement, time off from work, or a door-to-door effort to promote the vaccines.
The most likely scenario to persuade the unvaccinated to get shots was if they could get it at their primary care doctor's office, but 55% said they still would not get the vaccine from their own doctor. However, 26% said they would be somewhat or very likely to take the shots in their doctor's office.
A celebrity endorsement like that of actress and pop star Olivia Rodrigo partnering with the Biden administration to promote vaccines would only persuade about 14% of the unvaccinated. A combined 84% said they would be not at all likely or not very likely to get the vaccine because a celebrity told them to.
If an employer offered paid time off to get the shot, 63% of unvaccinated Americans would still not be likely to do it. Only 5% said they'd be very likely, while 30% were possibly persuadable.
Another 70% of unvaccinated Americans said they would not be convinced to get vaccinated by community volunteers going door to door to discuss the vaccine.
Each scenario presented by the survey, including the option to get a shot at work or a mobile clinic, or encouragement from friends or family, would only persuade a minority of the unvaccinated to get their shots.
The poll's findings come as public health officials and voices in the media are increasingly anxious over vaccine hesitancy.
Rising infectious cases of COVID-19 have been attributed to the Delta variant, which the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Tuesday now makes up 83% of cases in the U.S. Scientists believe this variant is more contagious than other variants of the SARS-CoV-2 virus but not necessarily more deadly. Still, COVID-19 has claimed the lives of more than 600,000 Americans, and a more transmissible version of the virus puts unvaccinated Americans at risk of contracting the disease and dying.
According to the New York Times vaccine tracker, only 48.6% of Americans are fully vaccinated and just 56.1% have received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine.
Public health officials say anywhere from 70% to 90% of Americans need to be vaccinated against COVID-19 before the country can leave social distancing and mask mandates behind.
But efforts to encourage the remaining unvaccinated Americans to get vaccine doses appear to have hit a brick wall. The Biden administration has blamed misinformation circulating on social media for hostility toward the vaccines. Last week, White House press secretary Jen Psaki revealed that the federal government was communicating with Facebook and other social media platforms to flag certain posts for containing false claims about the vaccines as part of an effort to have these platforms censor misinformation.
The administration is also undertaking efforts to encourage convince vaccine skeptics of the benefits of COVID-19 vaccination. In a speech on July 6, Biden said he would begin a literal door-to-door push in targeted communities to convince people to get vaccinated.
At least one official, National Institute of Allergies and Infectious Disease Director Dr. Anthony Fauci, suggested that local communities should adopt vaccine mandates to require people to get vaccinated to go to work or engage in other public activities.
Reasons given by unvaccinated Americans for their hesitancy are varied, but most appear to judge the potential risks of a vaccine to outweigh its benefits. A recent YouGov survey found that 90% of those who say they won't get the vaccine are more concerned about possible side effects than they are of COVID-19 itself.
The CDC says COVID-19 vaccines are safe and effective. Some reports of rare side effects have led the agency to add warnings to the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine about an increased risk of the rare nerve condition Guillain-Barré syndrome and about rare instances of blood clotting. Additionally, mRNA vaccines produced by Pfizer and Moderna have been linked to an increased risk of heart inflammation following vaccination, mostly among young adult males.
But the risks of serious complications after contracting COVID-19 appear to be far greater than the potential, rare side effects of the vaccines.
Some question the efficacy of the vaccines, reasoning that if the vaccines don't adequately protect against COVID-19, the risks of possible side effects outweigh the benefits of vaccination. Recently, vaccine critics have pointed to data from Israel that appears to show that among a recent increase in coronavirus cases, most of them are among vaccinated people.
Removed from context, this data can be misleading.
An analysis by the Washington Post pointed out that in January, Israel recorded a high of 10,000 new daily COVID-19 cases, but since the country encouraged most of its population to get vaccinated, daily average cases have plummeted to as low as 10 in May. In April the country reported some days with zero coronavirus deaths. While cases have recently increased, the current seven-day average is about 800 new daily cases, compared to over 8,000 daily in January.
"It's true that most new cases are coming from the vaccinated community, but that's in large part because of how relatively big that community is in Israel," the Post explains. "The latest numbers are that 85 percent of Israeli adults are vaccinated, meaning there are more than five times as many of them as unvaccinated people."
"The more vaccinated a population, the more we'll hear of the vaccinated getting infected," epidemiologist Katelyn Jetelina explained in an article discussing how base rate fallacies can lead some to misinterpret data.
"For example, say there's a community that's 100% vaccinated. If there's transmission, we know breakthrough cases will happen. So, by definition, 100% of outbreak cases will be among the vaccinated. It will just be 100% out of a smaller number," she wrote.
In Israel, 85% of adults are vaccinated, so it makes sense that some COVID-19 cases would break through among vaccinated people even though the vast majority of vaccinated individuals are protected against COVID-19.
The breakthrough cases are attributed to the Delta variant, which again is more contagious but not more severe than other variants. Israeli government data suggests that the Pfizer vaccine is "significantly less" effective at preventing the spread of the Delta variant, but critically, vaccinated Israelis who are contracting COVID-19 through the Delta variant are not becoming severely ill or being hospitalized because the vaccine is effective at preventing serious disease.