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Unvaccinated Americans say the need for boosters proves Covid vaccines don’t work


A patient receives her booster dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech coronavirus (COVID-19) vaccine during an Oakland County Health Department vaccination clinic at the Southfield Pavilion on August 24, 2021 in Southfield, Michigan.

Emily Elconin | Getty Images

The divide in attitudes on Covid-19 vaccines between people who’ve gotten or not gotten the shots hasn’t changed with the introduction of booster shots.

In fact, vaccinated people say the third dose approved by U.S. regulators last week shows that scientists are trying to make the shots more effective while 71% of unvaccinated Americans say it’s proof the vaccines don’t work, according to a survey released today by the Kaiser Family Foundation.

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Nearly 80 percent of respondents who have been vaccinated consider booster shots a positive sign.

Liz Hamel from the foundation, who is the director of survey research and public opinion at the foundation said: “We know that the people who have been vaccinated as well as those not vaccinated view the pandemic differently.” I find it not surprising that booster shots are discussed differently by them.

Hamel explained that among those not yet vaccinated, the strongest holdouts are the ones who believe the worst, have less concern about their health, and view vaccine safety and efficacy differently than people who have been vaccinated.

Kaiser conducted a random survey of 1,519 adults between Sept. 13 and Sept. 22. This was after the Biden Administration announced that it would offer booster doses to all Americans. However, federal health officials had recommended that booster doses be given to people over 65 years old and at higher risk for illness. 

According to the survey data, 90% of those surveyed said they had received at least one dose of vaccines, while 58% of Republicans reported that this is the case. 

Hamel explained that this division by political identity is steady at 30 percentage points, even though other gaps on the basis of race or ethnicity are shrinking. 

Survey results showed that the most recent increase in vaccinations was driven by the rise in Covid deaths, hospitalizations, and cases due to the Delta variant. This survey also found that the highest increases in vaccination rates were seen between July and September among Hispanic adults, as well as those aged 18 to 29. Hispanics, Blacks, and white adults also reported having been vaccinated at 71% and 70% respectively. Hamel noted that a separate Kaiser analysis of state-reported data published last week found that Black and Hispanic Americans were still less likely than white Americans to have received a vaccine, but that the disparity across groups was narrowing over time.

The political divide on vaccinations also extends to how the public plans to receive a booster shot. Nearly twice as many Democrats than Republican respondents said that they would “definitely” have one.

The overwhelming majority of adult fully-vaccinated people said they would either get it “definitely”/”probably” if the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and Food and Drug Administration recommended.

The FDA authorized Pfizer and BioNTech’s Covid booster shot for people 65 and older along with other vulnerable Americans on Wednesday of last week. On Friday, CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky authorized the distribution of boosters for those in high-risk occupational and institutional settings, overruling an advisory panel that had voted against that proposal. She also approved three other recommendations from the group that cleared the way to distribute boosters to people over 65, other vulnerable groups and a wide array of U.S. workers — from hospital employees to grocery store cashiers.

President Joe Biden received a booster shot on Monday since his age at 78 made him eligible for an extra dose under the CDC’s latest guidance. 

Biden stated that boosters are necessary, but it is more important to get people vaccinated.

According to CDC data, 75% of eligible Americans aged 12 or older have received at least one dose of vaccines. Nearly 65% are fully vaccinated. Since August, when health officials approved booster shots for those with weak immune systems, approximately 2.7 million have been vaccinated.

The pace of daily shots picked up over the summer as the delta variant spread rapidly across the country, with the seven-day average of daily reported doses hitting a recent high mark of 954,000 on Sept. 3. The pace has slowed and as of Monday, the average seven-day dose was 632,000 shots.

Biden issued sweeping new vaccine mandates on Sept. 9 affecting private businesses and federal employees. All government employees and contractors must be immunized against Covid. Companies with more than 100 staff are also required to implement mandates for vaccines, including religious and medical exemptions.

According to the Kaiser survey, Americans who have been vaccinated or not are unanimous in their belief that Covid won’t disappear anytime soon.

Eight in ten of the respondents (including large majority of vaccinated as well unvaccinated adults) said that they believe Covid “will continue at a lower stage and will be something that the U.S. can live with and manage through medical treatments and vaccinations like the seasonal influenza.” Only 14% believe that Covid in America will be completely eliminated, as was polio.

Mollyann Brodie from the Kaiser Family Foundation’s survey research and public opinion program said that the consensus is for COVID-19 to remain a problem and would have to be addressed as such.

CNBC’s Berkeley Lovelace Jr. and Robert Towey contributed reporting.