Fears over omicron variant have not encouraged US adults to get vaccinated or booster shots, survey finds

Cases are back to near-historic highs across the US

Josh Marcus
San Francisco
Tuesday 14 December 2021 21:09
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The rapidly spreading omicron variant of the coronavirus isn’t doing much to encourage people to get a booster shot or call off holiday travel, according to a new survey.

Among the unvaccinated, 67 per cent of Americans say omicron isn’t encouraging them to get the jab, and among those who have gotten their first round of vaccines, 59 per cent say omicron doesn’t encourage them to get a third dose, according to a new Axios/Ipsos poll.

The study, which polled a representative sample of about 1,000 Americans over age 18, also found that people are getting more risk-averse about Covid in some areas, but are still going forward with holiday plans.

Returning to normal life is now considered a moderate or large risk to 52 per cent of people, up from 44 per cent last November, the survey found. Thirty-one per cent of people also don’t expect to return to normal pre-Covid life for more than another year, the highest such finding on the question in 2021.

Still, 72 per cent of respondents plan to see family or friends outside of their household this holiday season.

Scientists are still studying the omicron variant to understand how it compares to other forms of the coronavirus, such as the highly contagious Delta strain which now makes up nearly all cases in the US. So far, omicron accounts for just 3 per cent of coronavirus cases in the US.

A study from a large insurer in South Africa, where the variant was first identified, indicates existing vaccines substantially lower the risk of hospitalisation from omicron, which appears milder than earlier infections.

However, the study’s authors caution that these seemingly gentler impacts could be the result of South Africans already having boosted immunity through a combination of previous infections with coronavirus and vaccination efforts.

More than 60 per cent of Americans have gotten two doses of the vaccine, but average daily case numbers are substantial, with around 120,000 new cases recorded each day. That’s well above the average during much of the first year of the virus, and only topped by historic peaks during last holiday season and late this summer during the rise of Delta.

The persistence of the virus has lead states like New York and California to reinstate indoor mask mandates.

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