The willingness of the U.S. public to get a Covid vaccine reaches a saturation point, a new national poll suggests, yet another indication that gaining widespread immunity in the United States is becoming increasingly challenging.
Only 9 percent of respondents said they had not yet received the shot, but intended to do so, according to the study published in the April issue of the Kaiser Family Foundation’s Vaccine Monitor. And with federal approval of the Pfizer vaccine for teens ages 12 to 15, which is expected to be imminent, parents’ eagerness to have their children vaccinated is also limited, the poll found.
“We are in a new phase of talking about vaccine demand,” said Mollyann Brodie, executive vice president of Kaiser’s Public Opinion and Survey Research Program. “There is not a single strategy to increase demand across all that is left. There will have to be a lot of individually targeted efforts. The people who are still at the fence have logistical barriers, information needs, and many do not yet know they are justified. Each strategy can get a small number of people vaccinated, but all in all, it can mean a lot. ”
With a growing number of researchers and public health experts concluding that the country is unlikely to reach the threshold of herd immunity, the Biden administration has intensified efforts to reach those who are still hesitant. On Tuesday, the administration announced steps to encourage more pop-up and mobile vaccine clinics and to distribute shots to primary care physicians and pediatricians as well as local pharmacies.
The study also showed that confidence in the Johnson & Johnson vaccine had suffered a significant blow after the 10-day break in dispensing, while authorities investigated rare incidents of life-threatening blood clots in people who had taken it. While 69 percent of the population said they trusted the safety of the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines, only 46 percent felt confident about the safety of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine. Among adults who have not been vaccinated, one in five said the news of the Johnson & Johnson shot had prompted them to change their minds about getting a Covid-19 vaccine.
The survey showed that there had been some progress among Republicans who have been among the strongest holdouts. Among this group, 55 percent said they had gotten a shot or intended to do so, up from 46 percent in March. The percentage who “certainly do not” get the vaccine is also shrinking, down to 20 percent from 29 percent in March.
The results were based on telephone surveys of a nationally representative sample of 2,097 adults from April 15 to April 29.
The so-called “wait and see” group – people who seek more information before making a decision – remained stable at 15 percent from 17 percent in March within the margin of error. The proportion of people who said they would only be vaccinated if required by employers or schools was 6 percent compared to 7 percent in March.
The Pfizer vaccine is expected to be approved for children aged 12 to 15 within a few days. Among the parents surveyed, three out of 10 said they would get their children vaccinated right away, and 26 percent said they would wait to see how the vaccine worked. These numbers largely reflected the zeal with which these parents themselves sought to be vaccinated.
Similarly, 18 percent said they would only do it if a child’s school required it, and 23 percent said they certainly would not get their children vaccinated.
A consortium of universities, including Harvard, Northeastern and Rutgers, has conducted online polls during the pandemic and recently focused on parenting. The group’s most recent survey, conducted throughout April and reaching 21,733 adults in 50 states, showed that the gap between mothers and fathers in views on the vaccine for children had widened.
Fathers’ resistance appears to be weakening slightly, falling to 11 percent from 14 percent since February. But over a quarter of mothers, researchers say, still say they are “extremely unlikely” to vaccinate their children. Both sexes are more resistant to the vaccine for younger children than for teenagers. Other studies show that mothers tend to have more swing over the final decision than fathers.
Parents’ responses may well change over time, experts say. Just as adults were far more reluctant last summer, when the vaccine was still a concept, parents who were examined several weeks ago when the forthcoming permit for children under 16 had not been widely discussed might also have reacted to a hypothetical situation rather than a reality.
But pediatricians and others who are considered reliable sources of information are already aware that they have a great deal of work to do to instill vaccine confidence in this latest cohort.
Dr. Sean O’Leary, a Denver pediatrician who is vice president of the Committee on Infectious Diseases of the American Academy of Pediatrics, predicted that just as adults had swarmed Covid vaccine providers in the first weeks of distribution, parents and pent-up young teens rushed also after that in the beginning.
But Dr. O’Leary, who often lectures with pediatricians on how to motivate patients to accept vaccinations, is concerned that a slowdown will inevitably follow. To persuade hesitant parents, he said: “We need to make the vaccine available in as many places as possible.”
He added: “If parents and patients are in the pediatrician’s office and the doctor can say, ‘Hi, I have it,’ it may be enough of a push for them to say, ‘Let’s go ahead and do this.’ ”