Vaccine Confidence Isn’t The Main Obstacle To Reaching Herd Immunity

A shorter version of this column has been published by Axios.

The share of the overall population that does not want to get vaccinated is small enough already that the U.S. should be able to reach herd immunity even if Americans who are most reluctant to get the vaccine do not change their minds.

New data from our KFF Vaccine Monitor show that 55% of adults are either already vaccinated at least once or plan to get vaccinated as soon as they can, and another 22% are in a “wait and see” group. That group has been shrinking. Think of them like persuadable swing voters. Many are likely to get vaccinated as they see family members and friends and neighbors vaccinated without adverse effect. The “wait and see group” should be the focus of vaccine confidence building efforts, especially in Black and Latino communities where the need for building vaccine confidence and addressing information needs and barriers to access is the most urgent.

Seven percent say they will only get vaccinated if they are required to at work and another 15% – the real hard core no vote – say they don’t want to get vaccinated. These numbers haven’t really budged since December. Employers can’t require vaccination while vaccines are operating under emergency authorizations but can with limitations once they have final approval.

Even if the vaccine resisters don’t switch – some of whom have been infected and may carry some degree of protection — it’s pretty easy to see how the country could get to 70% of adults vaccinated or more. That doesn’t include kids, who are not yet eligible to receive the vaccine. Once they are, we can imagine them getting vaccinated at similar or greater rates than adults given the pressure for them to return to school as safely as possible.

Many lower income and working people are not vaccine hesitant so much as they can’t access vaccine sites, aren’t on the internet or don’t have a laptop, are not internet savvy or just don’t have hours every day to sit by the computer tying to navigate websites. Sharing family stories of problems getting a vaccine appointment on a website may be the new America pastime, but in some ways it’s a mark of privilege as well.

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