Coronavirus cases and hospitalizations are again rising in the US. All the evidence we have suggests that vaccines help prevent most cases, and those who are unvaccinated are putting themselves at major risk.
Yet, all the data we have suggests that it is the unvaccinated who are the least afraid of the virus and are taking fewer precautions against it.
Take a look at the latest July data from the Axios/Ipsos tracking poll. In that poll, 37% of all adults said they were extremely or very concerned about the pandemic. That was the highest percentage recorded since mid-May.
The problem is the rise in concern about the coronavirus is driven pretty much exclusively by the unvaccinated.
In July, 44% of vaccinated adults indicated they were extremely or very concerned about the virus. This was up from 36% in late June.
Among the unvaccinated, concern was stable at 23%. The opposite, in theory, should be the case. The unvaccinated should be the most scared.
That said, lack of fear about the virus is probably part of the reason that the unvaccinated haven’t gotten a shot. It would also explain why it’s difficult to reach much of the unvaccinated through messages about how dangerous the virus is.
The people who seem to be getting the message most are those who already are vaccinated.
The same holds true when it comes to the Delta variant in particular. A majority of vaccinated adults (54%) who have heard of the variant are extremely or very concerned about it. Just 25% of unvaccinated adults feel the same way.
The percentage of the vaccinated who are extremely or very concerned has risen significantly from late June, when 40% felt that way. Among the unvaccinated, those who are extremely or very concerned stayed steady at 25%.
The good news is that some unvaccinated people do seem to be changing their minds about getting the vaccine. The percentage of adults who have received at least one dose of the vaccine in the last week is greater than it was since the beginning of July.
The vaccinations are disproportionately occurring in the places where there have been the most cases recently. With the exception of Alaska, the states in the top 11 for new cases per 100,000 residents are all in the top 11 for new vaccinations over the last week. These are states that on the whole have been in the bottom half of vaccination rates.
The problem is that the relative rate of vaccination is still not great. We’re only averaging about 400,000 new Americans getting their first dose daily. In April, the country was often averaging north of 1.5 million new Americans getting a first dose daily.
Perhaps the best way to see the divide between the vaccinated and unvaccinated is how many vaccinated adults are willing to get a booster vaccine. No matter how the question was asked, 88% of adults who have already been vaccinated said that they likely would. A majority of unvaccinated adults said they were not likely at all to ever get a vaccine.
Unvaccinated people’s unwillingness to get a vaccine might be less concerning if they were willing to take other proper precautions such as wearing a mask.
The issue there is that the unvaccinated continue to be less likely to wear a mask. A mere 44% of unvaccinated adults wear a mask at all or sometimes when leaving the house in the latest Ipsos poll. Before the latest CDC guidance suggested that vaccinated Americans should be wearing a mask in more instances, 55% of vaccinated adults said they did. This 55% could go up even more in future weeks.
On the other end, 35% of unvaccinated adults never wear a mask when they leave the house. This is not a decline from late June. It’s a within the margin of error increase from 31% that month. By comparison, 16% of vaccinated adults indicated that they never wear a mask outside of the home.
If we want the best chance of lowering case and hospitalization counts, the unvaccinated need to start acting more like the vaccinated.