The majority of Americans say they want to get the new COVID vaccine, despite a resurgence of fearmongering over the safety of the jab, according to two new polls released Friday.
At least 57 percent of registered U.S. voters are planning to get the newly authorized shot sometime this year, according to a poll from Politico and Morning Consult, with 37 percent saying they “definitely” plan to receive it. A second poll from Reuters/Ipsos found similar results, with 53 percent of those surveyed expressing interest in receiving the new vaccine.
However, both polls found sharp ideological divides among those surveyed, with interest in the vaccine broadly split along party lines. Of the 53 percent of people interested in receiving the new vaccine, 77 percent identified as Democrats, the Reuters/Ipsos poll found, while only 34 percent were Republicans.
Chris Jackson, head of public affairs at Ipsos, told The Daily Beast that political affiliation is still the “biggest driver these days of vaccine reluctance.”
“It’s almost divorced from any scientific or health-related conversations,” Jackson said, describing the public debate over COVID-19 as a “culture war issue.”
Despite overall enthusiasm for the new vaccine, a sizable minority—about 18 percent of those surveyed—believe the shots are dangerous, Jackson told The Daily Beast.
The Food and Drug Administration approved new COVID vaccines from both Pfizer and Moderna on Monday, and the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is recommending every American over the age of six months receive the shot.
The approval comes as an uptick in COVID cases across the country has led to a steady increase in hospitalizations over the last two months, CDC data shows. Several new variants of the virus, including the highly mutated BA.2.86, are continuing to circulate.
Just are surely as COVID cases have increased, so too has political rhetoric around the “dangers” of the new vaccine, as well as the potential for new mask mandates or restrictions.
In Florida, presidential hopeful Gov. Ron DeSantis stoked unfounded fears around vaccine safety, saying in a statement on Wednesday that he would not let the federal government, “use healthy Floridians as guinea pigs for new booster shots that have not been proven to be safe or effective.”
In direct opposition to the CDC’s advice, Florida’s surgeon general Dr. Joseph Ladapo also advised under-65s in the state not to get the new vaccine.
Both former President Donald Trump and DeSantis have made COVID part of their campaigns for the Republican nomination. DeSantis has used Trump’s pandemic legacy as a wedge issue, attempting to peel off a base of vaccine-skeptical voters still angry over lockdowns and mandates.
Trump, meanwhile, has boosted conspiracy theories that the Democrats will use the new COVID surge to reinstate restrictions and steal the next election and lashed out at criticisms of his own record on the virus.
This week, the former pandemic allies publicly criticized each other’s handling of the virus, with Trump claiming DeSantis had “shut down Florida” and obeyed the instructions of Dr. Anthony Fauci during the pandemic. DeSantis hit back, calling Trump’s comments “pathetic” and “false.”
Meanwhile, longtime anti-vaxxer Robert F. Kennedy Jr.’s campaign for the Democratic presidential nomination has given him a platform to share his bizarre theories. In July, Kennedy was criticized by the White House after he suggested COVID was engineered to spare Ashkenazi Jews and Chinese people.
“It is vile, and they put our fellow Americans in danger,” White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said of his comments.