Americans are less afraid of dying than COVID-19: research

National Guard members help motorists check the COVID-19 vaccination site on the campus of California State University in Los Angeles, Los Angeles County, California, United States, February 22, 2021. Los Angeles County, the most populous county in the United States, records a big drop in new cases of COVID-19 as vaccination continues, local health authorities announced on Monday (Photo: Xinhua)

In an ongoing panel study conducted by Northwestern University (NU) and Ohio State University, researchers believe that Americans are significantly less concerned that they could die from COVID-19, while their overall perception of the likelihood of contracting the virus remained relatively consistent from December to February.

“In December, Americans believed they had almost every third chance of dying if they became infected with COVID-19,” said Eric Nisbet, a professor of communication and policy analysis and director of the NU’s Center for Communication and Public Policy. “Now, two months later, that number has dropped significantly to about one in four chances of dying if they get sick. Interestingly, the overall perception of the likelihood of COVID-19 infection has not changed significantly.”

“Public Opinions on Vaccination Against COVID-19,” a study of 1,200 Americans surveyed monthly from December 2020 to June 2021, tracks changes in attitudes about risk perception, decision making, policy preferences, and preventative health behaviors. Respondents were asked about mandates for masks and vaccines, restrictions in bars and restaurants and places of worship, willingness or reluctance to be vaccinated, availability and efficacy of the vaccine, and their most important sources of information about COVID-19.

The study found that, despite some states abolishing mandates for masks across the state, strong public support, at 61 percent, for mandates for masks has remained unchanged since December.

The study shows that approximately four out of ten Americans “accept the vaccine,” saying they are extremely likely or likely to get the COVID-19 vaccine. Another of the four is the “vaccine that hesitates,” stating that it is either unlikely or unlikely to be vaccinated. Approximately one in three Americans remains “resistant to vaccines,” responding that they are unlikely or extremely unlikely to get it. Over a three-month period, these percentages remained stable and largely unchanged.

Respondents who expressed hesitation over acceptance were more likely to be women, blacks, and / or religious people and indicated that they were less interested in the news. They are also less reliable in health care providers and public health professionals, less likely to receive an annual flu vaccine, and feel that COVID-19 vaccines are less safe and somewhat less effective.

According to 23 percent of respondents, the most important source of information about the COVID-19 pandemic is news media, including newspapers, TV news, radio, news websites, followed by federal health authorities, such as those represented by the CDC and FDA at 18 percent. Healthcare providers and scientists were chosen as the most important source by 11 percent. Few respondents named social media or state and local officials as the primary source of COVID information.

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