Understanding Vaccine Hesitancy & the Delta Variant's Impact on Businesses
Here's what businesses need to know about the spread of the Delta variant of COVID-19 and how to address vaccine hesitancy among Americans.
Air Date: July 22, 2021
Moderator: Suzanne P. Clark, President and CEO, U.S. Chamber of Commerce
Featured Guests: Kathy Frankovic, Public Opinion Research Expert, Dr. José Romero, Secretary of Health, State of Arkansas
As the highly contagious Delta variant of COVID-19 continues to spread in the U.S., the percentage of Americans who are not fully vaccinated (roughly 50%) poses a big potential threat. Delta case spikes in states like Arkansas, which has a lower-than-average vaccination rate, could force government leaders to make some difficult decisions to protect public health.
In a panel discussion hosted by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation, Chamber CEO and president Suzanne Clark spoke with Kathy Frankovic, a consultant for YouGov America Inc., and Arkansas Secretary of Health Dr. José R. Romero about the Delta variant and the potential impact on American small business owners if more of the population doesn’t receive the vaccine soon.
U.S. Vaccination Opinions Fall Along Regional and Party Lines
In her research, Kathy Frankovic, one of the nation’s leading experts on public opinion and polling, has found that 20% of the American population has consistently indicated they have no intention of getting vaccinated against COVID-19, while 11% are not sure whether they’ll be vaccinated.
Frankovic noted that these percentages tend to fall along regional and political party lines.
“This group is not worried about contracting COVID-19,” she said. “They … live in rural areas, not so much in big cities, and more in the south and Midwest than on the coasts.”
“One of the things that's been so striking all along is the enormous difference between Democrats and Republicans in terms of their acceptance of the vaccine,” Frankovic continued. “Just 4% of Democrats in our most recent survey say they will not get vaccinated. That compares to 29% of Republicans. [The percentage] is larger among the less well-educated and the lower-income people.”
The vast majority of hesitant Americans say “nothing would change their mind” about getting the COVID-19 vaccine, and those that would change their mind would only do so under specific circumstances.
“No more than one in 10 will say, ‘Well, I’ll do it if my employer made me, or … if you gave me money, … or if the Food and Drug Administration gave permanent authorization to the vaccines,” said Frankovic.
Misinformation Is Contributing to Americans’ Hesitation to Get the COVID-19 Vaccine
One of the biggest factors in whether or not someone decides to get vaccinated is the information — or misinformation — they receive about the COVID-19 vaccine.
“When it comes to anything about vaccines, the ... ‘vaccine rejectors’ are more likely to believe ... discredited theories: Number one, that vaccines cause autism in general, [and] number two, that the vaccine contains a microchip that's going to be injected into the population,” Frankovic said. “Half of the people who say they will not be vaccinated believe one or the other theory.”
“It goes along with misinformation about how the government's been handling this,” she added. “Most of the people who say they won't be vaccinated claim that the government has magnified the extremeness of the virus in order to control the population. They don't trust the vaccine [and] they don't trust the government.”
Arkansas’ Recent Surge in COVID-19 Cases Is Primarily Among the Unvaccinated
In recent weeks, the state of Arkansas has seen a massive uptick in COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations. According to Dr. José Romero, more than 70% of randomly sampled cases indicate the presence of the Delta variant, and this surge is largely happening among the unvaccinated population.
“Ninety-eight or 99% of the [COVID-19] hospitalizations ... are individuals who are not vaccinated,” said Dr. Romero. “We have ramped up our efforts in trying to get people vaccinated, but there are certainly groups and clusters within the state that are resistant to the vaccine.”
Business Owners Can Educate and Incentivize Employees to Encourage More Vaccinations
As government and business leaders look ahead to the potential repercussions if the virus continues to surge, Dr. Romero urges the business community to help educate the public about the benefits of getting vaccinated and the dangers of not doing so.
“If business owners … educate their staff as to the significance of this infection, that would be a great help,” he said.
“It's also important … to remember that some people don't or can't take the vaccine because they're hourly workers, or they can't afford to lose the time at work because they're going to lose pay,” Dr. Romero continued. “Perhaps employers can offer some type of incentive where they'll give time off to individuals to go and get a vaccine, and then maybe offer time off if they have some of the adverse effects, but certainly ... paid time off to get the vaccine and education [will help].”