Omicron variant increases concerns and gives momentum to COVID-19 boostershots; May motivate a small percentage of unvaccinated adults to get an initial shot

The emergence of the omicron COVID-19 variant encourages many already vaccinated adults to get a recommended booster injection, but provides only a small motivation for unvaccinated adults to get a first shot, shows a new KFF COVID-19 Vaccine Monitor- rapid response study.

Posted from 15.-20. December, to give an early look at the potential impact of omicron on public vaccination intentions, the study shows that about half (54%) of vaccinated adults who have not received a booster dose say news about the omicron variant make them more likely to do so .

Omicron’s appearance appears to have a much smaller but not insignificant effect on unvaccinated adults. The survey shows that 12% of those who are unvaccinated say it makes them more likely to get a first shot, but a much larger proportion (87%) say it does not make them more likely to do so. .

The public also seems to be more and more concerned about getting seriously ill in the midst of the omicron wave. The new study shows that half (50%) of the population is now worried that they will become seriously ill with coronavirus, up from 30% in November’s full Vaccine Monitor report. Vaccinated adults are more likely than unvaccinated people to worry about becoming personally ill with COVID-19 (52% vs. 42%).

While about three-quarters (77%) of the public say they are aware that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) now recommends that all adults get a booster shot, almost one in four say they are not safe (19%) or mistakenly believe that the CDC does not recommend booster shots for all adults (4%).

Among vaccinated adults, one in five (21%) is either unsafe or wrong on the CDC’s recommendation. About 3 out of 10 Hispanic adults (31%), black adults (28%) and those under the age of 30 (39%) are also insecure or wrong.

When people who are unvaccinated were asked what could possibly convince them to get a shot, about half (48%) say that nothing could. Other answers include if there was more research and transparency (12%), if it was required for work or otherwise became mandatory (6%), if they received a large sum of money to get the vaccine (5%), if their doctor recommended it (3%), or if the vaccine prevented 100% of all infections (3%).

Designed and analyzed by opinion researchers at KFF, KFF Vaccine Monitor: Early Omicron Update was performed online and by phone from 15-20. December among a nationally representative committee of 1,065 adults. Interviews were conducted in English and Spanish by telephone (80) and online (985). The margin for sampling error is plus or minus 4 percentage points for the whole sample. For subgroup results, the margin for sampling error may be higher.

KFF COVID-19 Vaccine Monitor is an ongoing research project that tracks public attitudes and experiences with COVID-19 vaccinations. Using a combination of research and qualitative research, this project tracks the dynamic nature of public opinion as vaccine development and distribution unfold, including vaccine safety and hesitation, trusted messengers and messages, and the public’s experience with vaccination.

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