Half of the adults within the US will quickly be absolutely vaccinated. Convincing everybody else can be harder.
More than half of adults in the US have received their first dose of Covid-19 vaccine, a remarkable feat for a country that only began increasing vaccine distribution in early 2021.
That comes as the United States celebrates another major milestone. Starting Monday, adults in all states can book a vaccine appointment. The mass availability of vaccines should bring life closer to normal. and indeed there are signs that the economy is recovering. What is less clear, however, is whether anyone eligible for a vaccine will get one.
A national survey by Monmouth University, published last week but conducted before the federal government cut off Johnson & Johnson's vaccine distribution, found that 21 percent of all adults in the US "claim they will never receive the vaccine." if they can avoid it, "a figure that is relatively unchanged from the past few months, indicating that President Joe Biden's message about the safety and importance of vaccines is not reaching the desired populations.
Respondents found that age is a factor: adults under 65 are consistently less likely to say they want the vaccine. But the partisan division is greater. The Monmouth poll found that 43 percent of Republicans were against the vaccine, compared to just 5 percent of Democrats.
An Associated Press analysis of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) data found similar numbers: the six states with the most people who received at least one shot (as measured by percentage of the population) were all states that bidened won the 2020 elections. The five states with the lowest number of people vaccinated – where less than 40 percent of the population received a shot last Wednesday – have historically all opposed Republicans. The result is: Republican states and supporters of former President Donald Trump are less likely to get the shot for political reasons.
The president's chief physician, Anthony Fauci, described the idea as "disturbing".
"It is very worrying that political beliefs mean that people are unwilling to get vaccinated," Fauci said on CBS This Morning on Monday. "I find this really extraordinary because they keep saying that you are encroaching on our freedoms by asking us to wear masks and the kind of restrictions that affect public health problems. The easiest way to get out of there is to get vaccinated. It is almost paradoxical. "
It even came after Trump publicly encouraged his supporters to get vaccinated last month and Fox News' Maria Bartiromo said the vaccines were "great" and "safe". A study by Republican pollster Frank Luntz found that Republicans interviewed are more likely to be open to vaccinations if they are reminded that all available vaccines were made while Trump was in the Oval Office, and that the former president himself was vaccinated.
But the split among the partisans is not all it seems. Luntz also noted that while Trump's messages helped convince certain attendees, they were far more convinced when they received information from medical professionals about the safety and effectiveness of the shots. And residents of the GOP-led southern states who have lagged behind on vaccination with vaccines have in some cases struggled to gain access to shots. Ashish Jha, dean of Brown University School of Public Health, told Axios that linking political affiliation with likelihood of vaccination is often "incorrect" and "really harmful".
Looking at the state level – like the AP – Axios' Caitlin Owens found that Mississippi, Alabama, and Louisiana, the worst performing states in terms of vaccine distribution, have sizable black populations, a group that has been more likely for several months to say they want to wait before being vaccinated (although that seems to be changing).
There is an urgent need to ensure that almost everyone is vaccinated. Ending the pandemic is likely up to the US to achieve herd immunity (it is generally believed that 70 to 85 percent of the population have some immunity to Covid-19). If the number needed is closer to 85 percent, 21 percent of the public who refuse to get a shot could become a problem, which can cause the pandemic to spread and potentially more opportunities for dangerous variants to emerge.
Because of this urgent need, the Biden government has signaled its plans to refocus on vaccine availability to convince all Americans that vaccination is a good idea.
The vaccination rate remains high
At the moment the vaccinations are progressing very encouragingly. The United States now administers approximately 3.2 million of them per day, up from 2.5 million per day in March. That rate could soon be supported by the reintroduction of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, whose distribution was suspended by the CDC and FDA last week after six women had severe blood clotting reactions.
"Hopefully we'll be back on track one way or another by Friday," Fauci told CNN's State of the Union on Sunday.
There is concern that stopping the spread of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine could affect public confidence. Fauci said Sunday that the federal government is preparing a campaign to explain the results of federal experts on the shot and why it is safe should it be deemed possible.
A similar but more comprehensive campaign is being prepared to convince those who are still reluctant to be vaccinated, Axios reported for the first time on Sunday. As part of this effort, the White House is expected to provide educational resources to thousands of community leaders, including information and materials to be distributed, to encourage people to take their pictures and show them the places to go can.
The Biden administration also plans to partner with social media platforms like Twitter and Facebook to send users push notifications informing them of vaccine suitability and bringing doctors to television studios for interviews. Biden is also expected to film a new public announcement that will further promote vaccine uptake.
In total, hundreds of millions of dollars are being spent by the federal government on public relations efforts to get Americans into pharmacies and doctor's offices.
This is important not only so that the US can ultimately achieve herd immunity, but also because Covid-19 cases continue to rise across the country, which experts fear it could lead to a fourth wave of cases. The country currently has an average of 71,000 new cases each day, up from 55,000 last month, according to the New York Times. For the Biden administration and the rest of the country, it's a race against the clock.