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The number of US adults who are at least partially vaccinated rose five percentage points to 72% in August, a slightly faster increase than in previous months, according to the latest monthly COVID-19 Vaccine Monitor report of the Kaiser Family Foundation (KFF).
The largest increases in vaccine uptake between July and September were among Hispanic adults and people aged 18 to 29 years. Roughly equal shares of adults now report being vaccinated across racial and ethnic groups: 71% of White adults, 70% of Black adults, and 73% of Hispanic adults.
Overall, the big takeaway of the latest Kaiser COVID-19 survey is that the partisan divide on all aspects of the pandemic, from vaccination status to attitudes toward vaccination and mask mandates, remains as wide as ever.
The only thing that Republicans, Democrats, and Independents mostly agree on is that COVID-19 will probably become an endemic disease like influenza. Seventy-nine percent of respondents agreed with that statement; 14% predicted that COVID would probably be largely eliminated in future years, like polio.
Delta Motivated Many
The most important factor that led to people recently being vaccinated against COVID-19 was the surge in cases, hospitalizations, and deaths due to the Delta variant, KFF reports.
Specifically, 10% of the recently vaccinated said the main reason they got shots was the increase in COVID cases due to the Delta variant. Concern about reports of local hospitals and intensive care units filling up with COVID patients was the main motivator for 12% of those who just got shots. Fourteen percent of the recently vaccinated got inoculated mainly because someone they knew had become seriously ill or had died from COVID.
The role of the Delta threat is also evident with regard to where those who ere recently vaccinated live. Twenty-four percent of those who received their first dose of vaccine after June 1, 2021, reside in counties with a high COVID case rate; 15% of them live in counties with a relatively low case rate.
Despite the recent surge in vaccinations, however, 7% of adults are still taking a wait-and-see attitude; 4% said they’d get a shot only if required; and 12% said they definitely wouldn’t get vaccinated. The latter figure has barely budged since January of this year.
Ninety percent of Democrats said they had received at least one dose of the COVID vaccine, vs 68% of Independents and 58% of Republicans.
Wealthier, better educated, urban, and older people were more likely to be vaccinated, with one exception: 68% of those aged 18 to 29 were vaccinated, vs 66% of those aged 30 to 49. The group least likely to be vaccinated were uninsured people younger than 65, suggesting that some of them were unaware that the shot is free.
Attitudes toward vaccine booster shots — which are now recommended for people older than 65, the immunocompromised, and certain frontline workers ― largely fell along party lines and/or reflected whether respondents had been vaccinated.
Discussion of the boosters, KFF said, “appears to be a net positive for people who are already vaccinated, but a net negative for the unvaccinated. While a larger share of vaccinated adults say the information they have seen about boosters has been helpful (54%) than find it confusing (35%), among the unvaccinated almost twice as many find the information confusing as find it helpful (45% vs. 24%).”
Among fully vaccinated adults, 68% of Democrats say they’d definitely get a booster, and 20% say they probably would. Among Republicans, those percentages are 36% and 33%, respectively. Independents fall in between the other groups.
Although 82% of Democrats say the boosters show that scientists are continuing to make vaccines more effective, 52% of Republicans say that it shows that the vaccines are not working as well as promised.
Similarly, partisan attitudes emerged in questions about breakthrough infections. The fact that COVID cases are fairly mild when they occur among persons who have been vaccinated indicates that the vaccines are working, said 87% of Democrats, but only 55% of Republicans agreed with that assessment.
In contrast, just 10% of Democrats but 39% of Republicans said that breakthrough infections mean the vaccines are not working.
The public is more evenly divided on vaccine requirements. About 6 in 10 respondents said that vaccines should be required for healthcare workers (62%) and school teachers (58%). Slim majorities supported mandates for federal government employees (55%), college students (55%), and state and local government employees (54%).
On the question of whether employers in general should require their workers to be vaccinated, 48% of respondents said they should, and 50% said they should not.
Similarly, 52% said that all schools should mandate vaccines for eligible students; 46% didn’t approve of such requirements.
Three in four Democrats supported employer vaccine mandates, compared to 45% of Independents and just 20% of Republicans. Large partisan gaps were also seen for government, school. and healthcare vaccine mandates.
In contrast, 78% of the public favored requiring large employers to give their workers paid time off to get vaccinated and to recover from any side effects.
20% of Workers Under Mandates
One in five workers said their employer requires COVID-19 vaccination. Twenty-eight percent of employed people want their employer to require vaccination, and 50% don’t.
Again, the responses broke down along party lines, with 52% of Democrats, 21% of Independents, and 10% of Republicans favoring a vaccine mandate by their employers.
Most unvaccinated people didn’t support an employer mandate. A third of unvaccinated workers said they’d be likely to get vaccinated if their company required it, but most of them said they would choose weekly testing if offered the option.
Being unable to use gyms, restaurants, or indoor entertainment venues that require vaccination was cited by 13% of the recently vaccinated as the main reason why they got shots.
The public was evenly divided on whether states or local governments should require such businesses to mandate that staff and customers show proof of vaccination. Although the views of the public were tied on this issue overall, 79% of Democrats, 43% of Independents, and 21% of Republicans supported having these kinds of businesses require a vaccination card.
On school mask mandates, 56% of the respondents supported requiring all students and staff to wear masks. Favoring this kind of mandate were 83% of Democrats, 53% of Independents, and 29% of Republicans.
Partisanship also defined how Democrats and Republicans viewed the current high number of COVID-19 cases. Most Democrats blamed people who don’t wear masks and those who don’t get vaccinated, wereas Republicans were more likely to blame immigrants and tourists bringing COVID into the United States.