As coronavirus cases once again rise across the U.S., a recent survey lists the groups most likely to still refuse a COVID-19 vaccine.
A Public Religion Research Institute/Interfaith Youth Core poll conducted June 7-23 with a sample size of 5,851 adults found that white evangelical Protestants and Republicans are most likely to refuse a vaccine.
The survey found 67% of respondents have received at least one dose of a shot while 4% say they’ll get vaccinated as soon as possible. Vaccine hesitancy has decreased from a March 2021 poll when 28% said they were reluctant but not totally opposed to getting a vaccine compared to 15% in June who said the same.
However, 13% still said they definitely wouldn’t get a shot, similar to the 14% of respondents who said the same this March.
The poll, with a margin of error of plus or minus 1.65 percentage points, comes as COVID-19 cases have spiked across the country, fueled by the highly contagious delta variant and vaccine hesitancy.
Among religious groups, Hispanic Catholics reported the biggest shift in vaccine acceptance — meaning they have either received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine or plan to do so “as soon as possible” — rising from 56% in March to 80% in June.
White Catholics have also become more accepting of vaccines, increasing from 68% of respondents in March who were vaccinated or said they planned to do so in the near future to 79% in the most recent poll. Protestants of color increased in vaccine acceptance from 45% in March to 69% in June.
Meanwhile, Hispanic Protestants, Mormons and white evangelical Protestants are the least likely faith groups to be accepting of vaccines, with 17% of Hispanic Protestants, 19% of Mormons and 24% of white evangelical Protestants saying in the most recent poll they’d refuse a vaccine.
Republicans have generally become more accepting of vaccination, rising from 45% in March to 63% in June, but are still more likely than Democrats and independents to say they’ll refuse a vaccine.
Eighteen percent of Republicans say they are vaccine hesitant — meaning they may get a vaccine depending on whether it is mandated and how the vaccine works for others — and 19% are vaccine refusers. Meanwhile, 10% of Democrats are vaccine hesitant and 4% are refusers.
A growing number of independents have either received a vaccination or plan to do so soon, rising from 58% in March to 71% in June while the amount who are hesitant decreased from 29% to 17%.
Vaccine hesitancy has also been driven by the discredited QAnon conspiracy theory, whose supporters think former President Donald Trump and his administration were battling “deep state saboteurs” engaged in child sex trafficking and worshiping Satan.
Forty-five percent of QAnon believers say they have gotten vaccinated or plan to do so, 17% are hesitant and 37% say they won’t get vaccinated. Republicans who reject QAnon are more likely to accept vaccines, with 79% saying they will or have gotten a shot, 16% saying they’re hesitant and 5% saying they will refuse.
U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Vivek Murthy said in an advisory released earlier this month that misinformation about the pandemic is a “serious threat to public health.”
“I am urging all Americans to help slow the spread of health misinformation during the COVID-19 pandemic and beyond,” Murthy wrote. “Health misinformation is a serious threat to public health. It can cause confusion, sow mistrust, harm people’s health, and undermine public health efforts. Limiting the spread of health misinformation is a moral and civic imperative that will require a whole-of-society effort.”
The impact of vaccine hesitancy on the pandemic
Murthy said at a press briefing that the slowing rate of vaccinations can be attributed to misinformation, CNN reported.
COVID-19 cases across the U.S. have risen by 151% in the past two weeks and hospitalizations have increased by 76% over that same time period as of July 30, according to The New York Times.
More than 189 million people in the U.S. have received at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine, accounting for 57.2% of the population, as of July 29, according to the CDC. At least 163.8 million people — or 49.4% of the total U.S. population — are fully vaccinated.
Dr. Rochelle Walensky, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, echoed the fears of other health experts Friday that the delta variant of the coronavirus is more contagious than initially thought, McClatchy News previously reported.
“I think people need to understand that we’re not crying wolf here,” she said. “This is serious.”
Research also suggests that the variants are putting strain on vaccines because people have “a thousand times greater viral load” when infected with the delta variant compared to the original COVID-19 strain, PBS News reported. The delta variant also spreads more easily, meaning when an infected person coughs or sneezes, there is a greater likelihood someone else will get sick.
The benefits of vaccines also decline when around only half of the U.S. population is inoculated, Drew Weissman, who conducted research that led to the creation of the Pfizer and Moderna mRNA vaccines, told PBS.
“You can’t control a pandemic when 30 percent or even half the people are immunized,” he said.
The persistently high number of unvaccinated Americans is a concern Walensky has addressed in the past.
“There is a clear message that is coming through: This is becoming a pandemic of the unvaccinated,” she said at a July 16 briefing. “Our biggest concern is we are going to continue to see preventable cases, hospitalizations and sadly deaths among the unvaccinated.”
This story was originally published July 30, 2021 1:55 PM.