A new round of Covid vaccines is set to be rolled out in the US this fall, but experts are concerned that many Americans may not be willing to receive them. This hesitancy is largely due to pandemic fatigue, a belief that Covid is over, and confusion over personal risk levels. Only about 17% of the US population has received the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines since their approval last September, with even lower rates among adults over 65. The upcoming vaccines will target the omicron subvariant XBB.1.5, the most immune-evasive strain of the virus to date. However, experts believe that it will be a challenge to convince people to take these shots, especially given the slow uptake of previous vaccines.
One major factor contributing to vaccine hesitancy is the perception that Covid is no longer a threat. Polls have shown that a majority of Americans believe the pandemic is over and are not worried about contracting the virus. This mindset, combined with confusion over individual risk levels, has led to a lack of motivation to get vaccinated. Some people may question the need for an additional booster shot and whether the benefits outweigh the risks.
To increase vaccine uptake, health officials and providers may need to communicate a new message: that Covid shots are likely to become a routine part of protecting one's health moving forward. The goal is to establish a flu shot-like model, where people receive a single updated vaccine each year to target the latest variant. This could simplify the vaccination process and make it more familiar to individuals. However, there are concerns about whether the US will be able to successfully transition to this model, as the virus may not behave seasonally like the flu.
The shift to the commercial market for vaccine distribution may not have a significant impact on uptake, especially for insured Americans who can continue to receive vaccines for free. Efforts are being made to provide free vaccines to uninsured individuals, but it is unclear how many will benefit from these programs. Lowering barriers to access, such as cost concerns, is crucial in ensuring that everyone has the opportunity to get vaccinated.
Overall, the challenge of increasing vaccine uptake lies in addressing pandemic fatigue, confusion over personal risk levels, and establishing Covid shots as a routine part of healthcare. Clear and consistent messaging, along with efforts to make vaccines easily accessible, will be key in convincing Americans to roll up their sleeves and protect their health.