The Covid-19 vaccines work to greatly lessen the chance of a person getting a symptomatic case, getting hospitalized or dying. Yet nearly a third of eligible Americans haven’t gotten a single dose and more than 40% have not been fully vaccinated.
So what does work to get more people to take the vaccine?
One answer seems clear in the polling and in the real world: fear. Fear of getting the virus and of losing freedoms looks like it motivates people to get vaccinated.
You can see this well in the latest trends in vaccination and case counts. As of Friday morning, more people have taken the vaccine in the last week than have since June. This has happened as case counts and hospitalizations have been rising nationally.
Zoom in on the places where cases are the highest: Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Louisiana and Mississippi. With the exception of Florida, all have had some of the lowest vaccination rates since vaccines were made available.
Over the last week, however, all five states rank in the top five for number of people per capita getting vaccinated throughout the entire country.
The correlation here is clear enough, and the polling buffers the idea of a real connection.
The jump in vaccinations is happening as concern about the virus is rising once again. In Monmouth University polling, for example, concern that someone in your family would catch the virus jumped 11 points from June to late July. The Axios/Ipsos poll showed a similar trend with concern about the virus jumping in early August to its highest level since April.
When we examine Ipsos’ last two polls more closely, the connection between fear of the virus and likelihood of the unvaccinated getting shots becomes clear enough.
Among those who are extremely or very concerned about the virus, about 39% of the unvaccinated say they’re likely to get the vaccine. This drops to about 30% who are somewhat concerned. It declines to only about 12% with those who are not very concerned about the virus, and a mere 5% of those who are not concerned at all about the vaccine.
Kaiser Family Foundation polling confirms this trend. Of those who are open to getting the vaccine but aren’t sure (i.e. the wait and see group), 45% are concerned they could get seriously ill from coronavirus. This drops to just 8% among those who say they will definitely not get the vaccine.
These findings also comport with what I showed last week: The vaccinated are most likely to fear the virus most. Protecting themselves from getting sick or fear of getting sick was the No. 1 and 2 reasons respondents who are vaccinated said they got the vaccine in a June Kaiser poll.
Fear, not surprisingly, is a powerful emotion. For those who don’t fear the virus, fear of losing their job may be the answer to getting them vaccinated.
Ipsos showed this past week that 33% of unvaccinated adults said an employer requiring them to get the shot would make them likely to get one. That may seem low, but it was actually the highest rated action of any tested to see if the unvaccinated would likely get a vaccine. The only thing that came close was when respondents were told that they would get a bonus or raise (26%).
This 33%, however, may be an underestimate. Back in June, Kaiser put the question more bluntly. When non-self employed and currently working adults were asked whether they would get vaccinated or leave their job over a vaccine mandate, 42% said they’d get the shot. Half (50%) said they’d leave their job.
According to the Kaiser poll, about half of all adults who are unvaccinated are non-self employed workers.
This means that about one-quarter of all unvaccinated adults in this country would probably become vaccinated with a vaccine mandate at their job. That would be nearly 20 million extra people.
Fear of missing out on extracurricular activities seemed to work to get some people to take the vaccine in France. A record number of people got vaccinated after the government announced that people would need to produce a negative Covid test or be vaccinated in order to enter bars, restaurants and for travel on trains and planes.
Of course, there will always be people who won’t get vaccinated no matter what. About half of America’s unvaccinated adult population say they’ll never get a vaccine. The key is to convince the other half who aren’t vaccinated yet to get it. Fear does seem to be working with them.