Vaccinations against COVID in the U.S. started rolling out in December to a select group of people, but now, anyone over the age of 12 can get vaccinated. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), more than 53 percent of the total U.S. population has gotten at least one dose of a COVID vaccine. But, whether it's due to concern about the speed at which they were developed, religious reasons, or political ones, many people have chosen not to get vaccinated. Now, a new survey says half of people who haven't gotten their COVID shot have something in common.
A team from the Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research conducted online and telephone interviews with 1,125 U.S. adults. The researchers found that out of those who are not yet vaccinated, nearly half will never get their COVID shots. According to the poll, 46 percent of unvaccinated individuals say they will "definitely not get a vaccine," while 29 percent say they will probably not get vaccinated. Of those who definitely won't get vaccinated, 75 percent say they have "little or no worries" about COVID infection.
But data shows there may be cause for concern. A recent study found that unvaccinated people have been much more likely to be hospitalized for COVID in 2021. The study, which was conducted by the Cleveland Clinic, found that 99 percent of patients hospitalized with COVID during the first four months of the year were not fully vaccinated.
Since the CDC changed its guidance on masking in mid-May, allowing fully vaccinated people to go indoors without face coverings, many businesses have relied on the honor system, creating the potential for some unvaccinated individuals or those who have only received one shot to potentially ditch their masks too. A study on the subject, published in March 2021 in the journal Social Science&Medicine before the CDC changed its recommendations, found that 26 percent of unvaccinated respondents did not plan to wear a mask indoors.
"If you are vaccinated, you are protected," CDC director Rochelle Walensky, MD, said during a White House news briefing in May. "If you are not vaccinated, our guidance has not changed for you. You remain at risk of infection. You still need to mask and take other precautions."
The AP-NORC poll results also showed that only 7 percent of those who have not been vaccinated say they will definitely get a COVID vaccine at some point, and 15 percent say they probably will. That group is one doctors and public health experts have been trying to reach. Another recent survey from the Kaiser Family Foundation, which was published at the end of May, revealed that 44 percent of unvaccinated people in the U.S. in the "wait and see" group would be more likely to get a COVID shot if the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) fully approved the vaccine.
The FDA granted the Pfizer, Moderna, and Johnson&Johnson vaccines emergency use authorization (EUA) at the end of 2020 and beginning of 2021. Both Pfizer and Moderna have since filed for full approval from the FDA, which requires at least six month's worth of data on the vaccines' safety and efficacy. As the first vaccine granted EUA, Pfizer submitted its application to the FDA for full approval at the beginning of May, and Moderna followed a month later. According to The New York Times, the process to approve these applications could take months.
However, experts note that the longer people wait to get vaccinated, the more opportunity there is for the virus to mutate and spread. This week, for example, the CDC named the delta variant, B.1.617.2., as a variant of concern, noting "there is evidence that this variant spreads easily from person to person." On the heels of the announcement, Walensky once again urged the public to get vaccinated, saying "vaccination is our ticket OUT of this pandemic."