Can we believe this?
About half of Americans are interested in getting an updated COVID-19 vaccine more than three years after the virus infected millions and upended daily life across the United States and around the world, according to a new Reuters/Ipsos poll.
The results suggest that more might be willing to get a booster shot than a year ago when only around roughly one in six Americans opted for an updated shot, according to data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The nationwide online poll, which concluded on Thursday, showed that almost 30% of respondents were very interested in getting the vaccine and another 24% were somewhat interested. Almost 17% were not very interested and 30% were not interested at all.
U.S. public health officials earlier this week recommended updated COVID-19 vaccines from Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna that target a recently circulating omicron variant of the coronavirus.
U.S. officials are advising a much broader use of the vaccine – by everyone age 6 months and up – compared with the recommendations of many European countries, which prioritize the elderly and other vulnerable groups.
The World Health Organization’s latest advice says additional doses beyond the first two doses and one booster are not routinely recommended other than in older adults and certain at-risk groups such as those who have other illnesses.
Around 14% of those not interested in getting the booster said it was because they had COVID already while another 14% said they believed their previous vaccinations provided sufficient protection. Around 3% said their age group does not need the vaccine.
The number of Americans hospitalized with COVID-19 has risen in recent weeks, but remains far below the levels seen in the dark days of the pandemic between 2020 and early 2022.
OVERALL CONCERN DOWN
Some 54% of respondents in the Reuters/Ipsos poll said they were “personally” concerned about the spread of the virus, down from 77% in a poll taken three years ago. At the height of the pandemic, in early 2020, some 90% of poll respondents were concerned.
Almost 42% said they were mainly interested in getting the vaccine to reduce their risk of severe illness.
Demand for the vaccine had dropped sharply after 2021 when it first became available and more than 240 million people in the U.S., or 73% of the population, received at least one shot.
During the last revaccination campaign, when most Americas had either already had the COVID virus or been previously vaccinated, only around 56.5 million people got the updated booster shots, CDC data shows.
That’s far below the annual U.S. flu vaccine market of around 160 million shots.
COVID-19 vaccinations have also roiled U.S. politics, with many Republicans seeing the push for vaccination as government overreach. Only 34% of Republicans said they would be interested in getting the updated vaccine, compared with 77% of Democrats.
Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, who is seeking the Republican nomination for the 2024 presidential contest, on Wednesday urged people in his state under age 65 not to get the vaccination.
Some 36% of people not interested in the vaccine said their main reason was because they think the vaccine is dangerous, and another 5% said they did not believe COVID makes people sick.
“It really concerns me that over 30% think it is dangerous when there’s really no credible evidence of that, yet a lot of disinformation and, honestly, fear mongering,” said Dr. Jesse Goodman, an infectious disease expert at Georgetown University in Washington and a former chief scientist at the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.
“This does illustrate the power of misinformation and disinformation combined with anxiety,” he said.
The Reuters/Ipsos poll was conducted online and nationwide between Sept. 8 and Sept. 14, gathering responses from 4,413 U.S. adults. It had a credibility interval, a measure of precision, of about 2 percentage points.