Omicron Variant Increases Worries and Gives Momentum to COVID-19 Booster Shots; May Motivate a Small Share of Unvaccinated Adults to Get an Initial Shot

The advent of the omicron COVID-19 variant is encouraging many already vaccinated adults to get a recommended booster dose, but provides little motivation for unvaccinated adults to get an initial vaccination, a new KFF COVID-19 Vaccine Monitor Quick Response Survey shows.

The survey was conducted December 15-20 to provide an early glimpse into the potential impact of Omicron on public vaccination intentions making it more likely.

The appearance of Omicron appears to have a much smaller, but not insignificant, effect on unvaccinated adults. The survey found that 12% of those who were not vaccinated say it will make them more likely to get a first vaccination, but a much larger proportion (87%) say it makes them more likely to get a first vaccination.

The public also seems increasingly concerned about getting seriously ill amid the wave of omicrones. The new poll shows that half (50%) of the public are now concerned they will get seriously ill with coronavirus, up from 30% in the full November Vaccine Monitor report. Vaccinated adults are more likely than unvaccinated adults to be concerned about developing COVID-19 personally (52% vs. 42%).

While around three-quarters (77%) of the public said they are aware that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is now recommending a booster vaccination for all adults, nearly one in four says they are not sure (19%) ) or mistakenly believe that the CDC does not recommend booster vaccinations for all adults (4%).

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

When unvaccinated people were asked what, if anything, would move them to vaccinate, around half (48%) said nothing would be possible. Other answers are when there was more research and transparency (12%) as to whether it was necessary for work or otherwise made mandatory (6%) when they received a large sum of money to get the vaccine (5% ) if their doctor recommended (3%) or if the vaccine prevents 100% of all infections (3%).

The KFF Vaccine Monitor: Early Omicron Update was designed and analyzed by pollsters at KFF and was conducted online and over the phone from December 15 to 20 on a nationwide representative sample of 1,065 adults. The interviews were conducted in English and Spanish by telephone (80) and online (985). The sampling error margin for the entire sample is plus or minus 4 percentage points. Results based on subgroups may have a higher rate of sampling error.

The KFF COVID-19 Vaccine Monitor is an ongoing research project that tracks public attitudes and experiences with COVID-19 vaccinations. Using a combination of surveys and qualitative research, this project tracks the dynamics of public opinion during the development and diffusion of vaccines, including the trust and reluctance of vaccines, trusted messengers and messages, and the public's experience of vaccines.

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