News Story

As message of COVID vaccines changes, public support for booster shots shrinks

Fewer Americans follow full recommendations

Recent numbers suggest that confidence in COVID-19 vaccines is weakening, especially for boosters.

Out of 9,887,399 Michigan residents six months and older who are eligible to receive the COVID-19 vaccine, only 1,993,032 have fully followed the vaccine recommendations of public health officials. This means about 20% of the population, or one in five Michiganders, are up-to-date on the COVID vaccine. Younger children are among the least likely to have received a vaccine, as Michigan Capitol Confidential previously reported.

While the COVID vaccine offers some protection against severe cases, it does not always prevent infections, and the virus is a threat primarily to the elderly and those who already suffer from other ailments or are in poor physical condition.

What is most surprising is that 26% of residents 75 and older, who are most vulnerable to the virus, have not followed recommendations to get a second vaccine booster. Sixty-two percent of those in that age group have their first vaccine series, along with a booster. Those ages 40-49 years old have been the most likely to seek out the recommended dosage, with 34% having received their booster shots.

Waning public interest in boosters comes after many key claims about the vaccine have proven either exaggerated or inaccurate. Political and health care leaders initially argued that the vaccine could prevent people from getting the disease and from transmitting it. They also said the vaccine was superior to natural immunity.

“You’re not going to get COVID if you have these vaccinations,” President Joe Biden announced at a July 2021 presidential roundtable. In this year’s State of the Union address, Biden said the vaccine would “stop the spread of these diseases.”

Biden attempted to mandate that health care workers and all staff at businesses with over 100 employees get the vaccine. The U.S. Supreme Court struck down businesses mandate. But it upheld the one on health care workers, which applies to businesses receiving federal funding.

Anthony Fauci, chief medical advisor to Biden and President Donald Trump, told Americans that vaccinated people become “dead ends” for COVID-19, and it was highly unlikely the virus would be transmitted by vaccinated patients, according to The Hill in March 2021.

“With COVID, I mean, the things that we thought we knew in the beginning turned out, as the months went by, to not be the case, which really forced us to adapt and to change some of our policies and recommendations,” Fauci later told MSNBC. “That was interpreted by many as flip-flopping, or not really knowing what’s going on ... when it really was the evolution of the science.”

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said in August 2021 that vaccines offered more immunity than natural immunity. The CDC changed its guidance a year later. It now says the unvaccinated and vaccinated should follow the same COVID-19 recommendations.

The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services has conducted advertising campaigns to tell people to get vaccinated, saying it would save their loved one’s lives and prevent the virus from spreading.

Some health care professionals have issued the same message. “It just takes one child to spread illness,” Michele Day, a Henry Ford Health pediatrician, said, according to an Aug. 23 Detroit Free Press story. “The safest way, the best way to keep your child safe and to provide protection to the community is to get your child vaccinated.”

Changes in official pronouncements have been coupled with draconian rules such as those imposed by Gov. Gretchen Whitmer in 2020. One result may be increasing public skepticism. Confidence in “public health officials such as those at the CDC” plummeted from 79% in March 2020 to 52% in May of this year, according to a recent Pew Research Center report. In the same survey, confidence in “your local elected officials” dropped from 69% to 54%; confidence in “your state elected officials” fell from 70% to 51%; and confidence in Biden fell from 54% to 43%.

Michigan Capitol Confidential is the news source produced by the Mackinac Center for Public Policy. Michigan Capitol Confidential reports with a free-market news perspective.