I went to CNN’s political prognosis, Harry Enten, to get his impression of what we know specifically about the unvaccinated and what might convince them to get the vaccine.
Below is our conversation, conducted via instant messaging.
WHAT MATTERS: Hi, Harry! I usually talk to you about politics, but we are all Covid journalists now and maybe forever.
UNDERSTAND: Hello Mr. Wolf! The disaster of the last year and almost half has changed our whole lives forever.
WHAT MATTERS: We know the exit can be done through vaccines, but now the CDC tells us that even vaccinated people should mask themselves in high-transmission areas because not enough country has been vaccinated. What do we know, in the broadest sense, of that unvaccinated population?
UNDERSTAND: Well, I think we know a few things.
WHAT MATTERS: About 57 percent of the country has gotten a dose and nearly half of the country is completely vaccinated, according to the CDC. But zero people under the age of 12 have gotten the shot. What is the universe of people that really sustains us?
UNDERSTAND: Well, this has been one of the interesting things from a journalistic perspective. Who is the best dominator?
* Side note: There is a small fraction of children under 12 vaccinated due to trials.
WHAT MATTERS: So is a third of people eligible, give or take?
UNDERSTAND: Yes. Approximately one-third of the eligible population has refused to take a dose. But that decreases as you go up the age scale. Among those most at risk, those over 65, derived from the virus (although we all have at least one risk and everyone should be vaccinated), 80% are fully vaccinated and 90%, at least partially.
WHAT MATTERS: My impression of the groups you mentioned earlier (and they are not mutually exclusive!), But the impression of what prevents vaccines is something like this: young people might think they are invincible, so they don’t prioritize entry . Conservatives could be skeptical about government and vaccines. And racial minorities may have a legitimate historical fear of being treated like guinea pigs. What do the data say about what motivates these groups?
UNDERSTAND: So I think Kaiser’s latest survey in June gives us a good indication of what’s going on here. They asked different groups why they doubt or are resilient.
In fact, Republicans basically give a series of different answers (which can be a code to say they just don’t want it, no matter what happens). Between 46% and 55% say the vaccine is too new, the side effects are worrying, they just don’t want to get it, don’t trust the government, don’t think they need it, don’t think they need it, and so on.
Compare this to black Americans, the two main answers are, by far, that the vaccine is too new and that it is concerned about side effects (55%). Among those under 30 who have not received a dose, 65% say they do not think they need one is one of the main reasons.
WHAT MATTERS: What do we know about who can be persuaded to get the vaccine and how can they be convinced?
UNDERSTAND: So this is interesting. What is the definition of persuasive? I think two groups could be considered convincing.
Those who say “we’ll see this” and those who say “I’ll only get the vaccine if it’s required.” Both represent approximately 10% of the entire adult population.
Much of the waiting crowds want to make sure the vaccine is safe. In that Kaiser survey I mentioned, 56% of people who weren’t vaccinated, but said they expected and saw at least one, indicated that full FDA approval for a Covid-19 vaccine will make them more likely to get vaccinated. I think the answer to the crowd of “only take a vaccine if it’s forced” is pretty obvious: the vaccine warrants. People may complain about it, but the polls indicate it could work anyway.
WHAT MATTERS: In general, we are talking here about a country of more than 330 million people when we know that regional disparities in vaccine acceptance play a huge role in this problem, with huge fluctuations between states and within states. I know the south is less vaccinated than the rest of the country. I know West Virginia started well with vaccines, but now it’s lagging behind. And we know there are outbreaks in places like Los Angeles, which have better-than-average vaccine coverage. What regional vaccine stories do you have?
UNDERSTAND: I mean, getting New England so vaccinated is another matter. Maine and New Hampshire are states where Trump competed hard. He nearly won them both in 2016. Both have about three-quarters of their adult population vaccinated. In New England you will find no group of states more vaccinated than the six.
Beyond that, you mentioned West Virginia, what we initially saw were smaller states in general with good vaccine distribution plans. Eventually, however, they were people willing to get vaccinated. I’ll look at two more things: first, you and I talked about it earlier this week. The southeast has lagged behind in vaccinations. It’s a place where there are a lot of Republicans and a lot of black Americans, two groups less likely to get vaccinated.
Over the past week, however, many southeastern states, where Covid cases are high, have been the first places in more recent vaccines. Second, I will note that even when vaccines are high, much of the general population (a third or more) remains unvaccinated. This includes California.
WHAT MATTERS: And as I was writing this, I looked at the Kaiser data you linked to earlier and in California, Latinos are more than a third of the population, but only 29% of those vaccinated, so maybe in states with larger Latino populations, this also plays a factor.
UNDERSTAND: We see it state after state. Blacks and Hispanics account for a lower proportion of vaccinated people than the general population. This has been the case since the beginning of the vaccination campaign and unfortunately continues to be so.
WHAT MATTERS: But maybe they’re more mobile (and I know they don’t sell within that timeframe) than white Americans who oppose vaccines.
UNDERSTAND: Well, that’s a good question. And yes, I would say you are into something! Among white adults who have not received any dose, 49% say they will never take any. It’s only 26% among blacks or Hispanics.
WHAT MATTERS: Okay, Harry. I’ve probably mastered enough of your time (and thanks for sharing it!). Any idea of separation for the public What does it matter?
UNDERSTAND: Here it will seem like a broken record, but if you don’t, get vaccinated. They work. I just can’t say enough. You could save your life or someone you care about.
WHAT MATTERS: Listen! listen! See you later, sir.
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