WASHINGTON – Despite the risk the delta variant poses to the unvaccinated, it's the people inoculated against COVID-19 who are more concerned about the highly contagious version – and more likely to change their behavior, according to a new poll released Wednesday.
Vaccinated adults are nearly twice as likely to worry that new variants like delta will worsen the pandemic nationally and locally, according to the latest tracking poll from the Kaiser Family Foundation.
Also, four out of 10 vaccinated adults worry they personally will get sick compared to 27% of unvaccinated adults.
And the vaccinated are more likely than the unvaccinated to say they wear masks at work, in grocery stores and other indoor places or in crowded outdoor settings.
The telephone survey of 1,517 adults was conducted from July 15-27, before the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said people should mask up indoors in areas with “substantial” levels of COVID-19 transmission.
The delta variant is substantially more contagious than other variants and those who get it may be infectious for longer.
Most counties have transmission rates high enough to trigger indoor mask wearing as new cases and hospital admissions have jumped – while the public remains divided over whether vaccines should be mandatory.
The CDC has said the delta variant might be spread as easily by vaccinated people who become infected to those without inoculation as by the unvaccinated, even though vaccines still protect against severe illness and death.
About one in five unvaccinated adults said variants have made them more likely to get vaccinated.
Daily vaccination rates have more than doubled recently in states with the highest case rates, according to the Biden administration.
“Seeing their friends get sick and local hospitals fill up again with COVID patients may speed them along and add to their ranks,” said Drew Altman, president and CEO of the Kaiser Family Foundation, a nonpartisan health research organization.
About a quarter of unvaccinated adults say they expect to get a shot by the end of the year.
But 14% of adults say they will “definitely not” get vaccinated, a share that hasn’t significantly changed since December.
Three-fourths of unvaccinated adults say they are “not worried” about getting seriously sick. A narrow majority say the vaccine is a bigger health risk than the coronavirus itself.
Efforts to spur workers to take the vaccine have increased, including President Joe Biden’s announcement last week that federal employees and contractors will have to get vaccinated or face restrictions such as masking and testing.
The public is split over whether the federal government should recommend employers mandate their workers get vaccinated: 51% said they should and 45% said they should not. Only 16% of unvaccinated adults said the federal government should weigh in compared with 68% of vaccinated adults who would like to see that recommendation.
The difference in mask wearing is largely driven by unvaccinated Republicans. Majorities of Republicans say they “never” wear a mask outdoors in crowded outdoor places, at work, or in a grocery store.
Just over half of Republicans surveyed said they’d gotten at least one shot of the vaccine compared with nearly nine out of ten Democrats.
New York City announced Tuesday that vaccinations will be required for indoor venues such as gyms, restaurants and theaters.
But Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, a Republican, is prohibiting local officials from requiring face masks and from mandating vaccines.
Such moves prompted pushback from the White House.
"I say to these governors: please help," Biden said Tuesday. "If you aren’t going to help, at least get out of the way for people who are trying to do the right thing.”
Tracking COVID-19 vaccine distribution: How many people have been vaccinated in the US?
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Poll: Vaccinated more concerned than unvaccinated about COVID variant