When I was digging deep in the April 2-4 Harris poll for any interesting new insights, some data jumped out at me. It indicates there is a definite risk of a significant widespread surge in Covid infections even as vaccinations are proceeding at a fast pace.
The poll asked adults how comfortable they would be doing different out-of-home activities today given the Covid-19 pandemic. Consistently for all the activities, people who said they would not get vaccinated (14% of respondents) were far more comfortable than people who had already been vaccinated (36% of respondents), around twice the rate. Here are the results for some of the activities.
The Harris poll results are not an anomaly. The April 3-6 Economist/YouGov poll found over half of Americans (54%) who reject vaccination say it is safe for them to travel within the United States. In contrast, only 29% of people who have received at least one vaccination shot feel safe traveling.
At first blush, this doesn’t make sense. You’d think people who have been vaccinated would be the most comfortable going out. But no, people who haven’t and don’t intend to get vaccinated are the most comfortable.
When I pondered this, I concluded the following might be the explanation. People already vaccinated likely are well informed and most concerned about the risk of Covid infection, not just to themselves, but the possibility of being asymptomatic spreaders to others even when vaccinated. They probably also understand the vaccines are not 100% effective in preventing infection. The effectiveness is 90% for the mRNA vaccines and in the low 60% for the Johnson & Johnson vaccine. Being informed, vaccinated people are probably also worried about the variants and the vaccines’ effectiveness against them. On the contrary, many people who won’t get the vaccines are probably pandemic deniers and Covidiots, so they don’t perceive there to be any risk to themselves, let alone others.
Poll results appear to confirm this. The April 3-6 Economist/YouGov poll found that 71% of vaccine refusers are not worried about catching Covid-19 compared to 47% of vaccinated people:
This is further demonstrated by findings from the April 2-4 Harris poll that found 71% of vaccine refusers saying they are comfortable visiting with family or friends without a mask compared to 49% of vaccinated people. Additionally, 58% of vaccine refusers are comfortable shopping in a store without a mask vs. 23% of the vaccinated.
The Economist/YouGov poll found that three in 10 Americans who have received at least one vaccine shot (29%) feel safe traveling within the U.S., whereas half of Americans who reject the vaccine feel safe traveling (51%). The poll also found that half of the anti-vaxxers rarely or never wear a mask in public (51%).
All this means that the people now visiting public places, those who are most comfortable going out, are the vaccine refuseniks who are in a much larger proportion than in the general population. They are the most vulnerable to becoming infected and/or spreading the virus to others. With the more infectious variants quickly spreading, the infection rate of those vaccine refusers who are now out in public the most could become very high, resulting in another wave of infections.
Here’s the risk of an increase to Wave 4 infections. As governments are lifting restrictions and businesses are becoming fully operational, rather than the most people visiting being vaccinated who have the lowest risk of becoming infected and the lowest risk of spreading coronavirus, a large number of people visiting are not only not vaccinated but also the least worried and the most complacent about being cautious and taking precautions, including wearing a mask.