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Most unvaccinated people fear vaccines are more dangerous than coronavirus, poll finds

Ninety percent of people who say they are definitely not getting the vaccine also say they are not worried about getting seriously sick from COVID-19.
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Fifty-three percent of unvaccinated people say they think vaccinations are more dangerous than getting infected with the virus, according to the KFF COVID-19 Vaccine monitor poll. (Julia Wall | jwall@newsobserver.com)

A majority of Americans who are not vaccinated against COVID-19 believe vaccines pose a greater risk to their health than the coronavirus itself, including the delta variant that has led to a spike in cases across the U.S., a poll found.

Fifty-three percent of unvaccinated people say they think vaccinations are more dangerous than getting infected with the virus, according to the KFF COVID-19 Vaccine monitor poll.

However, health officials have repeatedly said that coronavirus vaccines are safe and continue urging people to get vaccinated to slow the spread and reduce the number of hospitalizations and deaths caused by the virus.

Still, 90% of people who say they are definitely not getting the vaccine also say they are not worried about getting seriously sick from COVID-19.

More than 97% of people who were hospitalized with coronavirus in mid-July were unvaccinated, NPR reported.

The CDC warned last week that the highly infectious delta variant circulating across the U.S. may be as contagious as chickenpox, McClatchy News reported. Delta has a longer window of transmission than the original coronavirus strain, may cause more severe illness and spread more easily through vaccinated people.

About 90% of adults have heard or read a bit about new strains of the coronavirus, including the delta variant, the poll found. About 74% of vaccinated people reported higher levels of concern that new variants will worsen the severity of the pandemic, compared to 39% of unvaccinated people who expressed similar fears.

Around 65% of vaccinated adults, meanwhile, believe the pandemic will get worse in their surrounding area, compared to 34% of unvaccinated Americans who said the same. Another 40% of vaccinated adults are worried that they will get sick from new variants, whereas 27% of unvaccinated people are not.

The delta variant is now in at least 132 countries, including the U.S. It is more transmissible than the common cold, the 1918 Spanish flu, smallpox, Ebola, MERS and SARS, according to the CDC. The measles still spreads faster than delta.

Distrust in the media has largely altered the public’s perception of the COVID-19 vaccines. Nearly 60% of those unvaccinated say in the poll they think the news has generally exaggerated the severity of COVID-19. Those who say they will “definitely” not get vaccinated in the future also hold the same viewpoint, with 75% of them calling the pandemic “generally exaggerated.”

A recent Gallup survey also found that more Americans are beginning to trust less in science over the past few decades. Sixty-four percent of people said they had “a great deal” or “quite a lot of” trust in science, compared with 70% of adults in 1975.

Come today, researchers found that 10% of adults say they will wait and see how the vaccine works in other people before getting vaccinated themselves and 3% say they will only get a shot if required, down from 6% in June.

Since December 2020, the number of Americans who say they will “definitely” not get a COVID-19 vaccine has remained stable — fluctuating between 13% to 15%.

The CDC still insists that any “serious types of health problems” after getting vaccinated are rare and any long-term side effects are “extremely unlikely.

“Millions of people in the United States have received COVID-19 vaccines since they were authorized for emergency use by the FDA,” the CDC adds. “These vaccines have undergone and will continue to undergo the most intensive safety monitoring in U.S. history. This monitoring includes using both established and new safety monitoring systems to make sure that COVID-19 vaccines are safe.”

More than 165 million Americans have been fully vaccinated against COVID-19 as of August 3, according to the CDC. That’s 49.7% of the total U.S. population, and 58.2% of Americans ages 12 and up.

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