When the Kaiser Family Foundation conducted a survey earlier this year and asked American adults if they were planning to get the vaccine, 23% said no.
But a significant portion of that group – around a quarter – have since decided to get the vaccine. Kaiser pollsters recently followed up and asked these converts what caused them to change their mind. The answers are important because they provide insight into how the millions of Americans still unvaccinated might also be persuaded to get vaccinated.
First of all, a little reminder: a few weeks ago, it seemed plausible that the Covid-19 was in permanent decline, at least in communities with high vaccination rates. But the Delta variant was a game-changer. The number of cases is increasing in all 50 states.
While those who have been vaccinated are almost guaranteed to avoid serious symptoms, Delta has placed the unvaccinated at increased risk of contracting the virus – and, by extension, hospitalization and death. The death rate from Covid in recent days has been significantly higher in states with low vaccination rates than in those with higher rates:
(For more detailed state-level charts, see this article by my colleagues Lauren Leatherby and Amy Schoenfeld Walker. The same pattern is evident at the county level, as the health policy expert Charles Gaba explained on Twitter.)
Nationally, more than 99% of recent deaths have been in unvaccinated people, and more than 97% of recent hospitalizations have been in unvaccinated people, according to the CDC “Look,” the president said on Friday. Biden, âthe only pandemic we have is among the unvaccinated.
The three themes
What helps shift people skeptical of vaccines to those who are vaccinated? The Kaiser polls point to three main themes.
(The themes apply to both the 23 percent of people who said they would not have a vaccine, as well as the 28 percent who described their attitude in January as âwait and see.â About half of the “wait and see” group has since had a chance.)
1. Seeing that millions of other Americans have been safely vaccinated.
Consider these quotes from Kaiser’s interviews:
âIt was clearly safe. No one was dying. – a 32-year-old white Republican in South Carolina
“I went to visit my family in another state and everyone there had been vaccinated without a problem.” – a 63-year-old freelance black man in Texas
âAlmost all of my friends have been vaccinated with no side effects. – 64-year-old black Democratic woman from Tennessee
This suggests that the focus on vaccine safety – rather than just the danger of Covid, as many experts (and this newsletter) typically do – can help persuade more people to get vaccinated.
A poll of vaccine skeptics by Echelon Insights, a Republican company, points to a similar conclusion. One of the most persuasive messages, the skeptics said, was hearing that people had been receiving the vaccine for months and that it “worked very well without any major problems.”
2. Hear pro-vaccine messages from doctors, friends and relatives.
For many vaccinated, the messages from politicians, national experts and the media have been compelling. But many other Americans, especially those without a college degree, don’t trust traditional institutions. For them, hearing directly from people they know can have a bigger impact.
âHearing from the experts,â Mollyann Brodie, who oversees the Kaiser polls, told me, âit’s not the same as watching those around you or in your home go through the vaccination process. “
Here are more interviews from Kaiser:
âMy daughter is a doctor and she got the vaccine, which was reassuring that it was okay to get the vaccine. – a 64-year-old Asian Democrat in Texas
âMy friends and family convinced me, as did my workplace. – a 28-year-old white independent man in Virginia
“My husband bugged me to get it and I gave in.” – a 42-year-old white Republican woman in Indiana
âMy doctor told me that she strongly recommends that I get the vaccine because I have diabetes. – a 47-year-old white Republican woman in Florida
These comments suggest that ongoing local campaigns may have a greater effect at this stage than public service advertising campaigns. The only exception to this may be figures from groups who still have higher skepticism about vaccines, such as Republican politicians and black community leaders.
3. Learning that not being vaccinated will prevent people from doing certain things.
There is now a heated debate over vaccine warrants, with some hospitals, colleges, cruise lines and others implementing them – and some state lawmakers trying to ban the warrants. The Kaiser poll suggests that these requirements can influence a significant number of skeptics to get shot, sometimes just for logistical reasons.
âHearing that travel quarantine restrictions would be lifted for those vaccinated was a major reason for my shift in thinking. – a 43-year-old black Democrat in Virginia
âTo see events or visit certain restaurants, it was easier to get vaccinated. – a 39-year-old white freelance man in New Jersey
âThe trip to the Bahamas required a COVID injection. – a 43-year-old Hispanic independent man in Pennsylvania
Learn more about the virus:
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Although the Me Too movement raised awareness of the prevalence of sexual assault, the struggle to prosecute continued.
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Shortly after the 2020 presidential election, five women teamed up to give Vice President-elect Kamala Harris a name sign – the equivalent of a person’s name in American Sign Language.
The women – Ebony Gooden, Kavita Pipalia, Smita Kothari, Candace Jones, and Arlene Ngalle-Paryani – are members of the “Deaf Community of Capital D”, a term some deaf people use to indicate that they are embracing deafness as cultural identity and communicate primarily through ASL.
Through social media, people submitted suggestions and put the nominations to a vote. The result: a name sign that is inspired, among other things, by the sign for “lotus flower” – the translation of “Kamala” into Sanskrit – and the number three, highlighting Harris’ trifecta as first vice president black, indian and feminine.
âThe name boards given to political leaders are usually created by white men, but for this one we wanted to not only represent women, but also diversity – black women, Indian women,â Kothari said. Learn more about this and see videos of the signs. – Sanam Yar, a morning writer
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Friday’s spelling contest pangram was elongate. Here is today’s puzzle – or you can play it online.