Although the percentage of those unwilling to take a COVID-19 vaccine has remained unchanged since May, Arizonans are showing less concern about the risks, according to a new survey by OH Predictive Insights.

The online opt-in panel survey of 1,000 adults, conducted from July 6 to July 11, found that 42% of Arizonans were “slightly or not at all concerned” about the deadly disease, whereas 35% of Arizonans were “extremely or moderately concerned.”

“The data showed no statistically meaningful change from May in the number of Arizonans unwilling to take the COVID-19 vaccine (21%), while those who reported already taking the vaccine rose by 8%,” according to the survey. The margin of error is plus or minus 3.1 percentage points.

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The decrease in “pandemic panic” comes at a time when the Arizona Department of Health Services’ daily curve showed an uptick in COVID-19 cases in the past week. Earlier this month, the daily number of new cases exceeded 1,000 for the first time since February. Arizona has recorded more than 18,100 deaths since January 2020.

Health experts say immunization is the best way to fight the delta variant of the coronavirus that causes COVID-19, which quickly became the dominant strain in Arizona.

“By and large, it is a surge among the unvaccinated,” said Dr. Joshua LaBaer, executive director of the Biodesign Institute at Arizona State University, in a media briefing Wednesday. “The important take-home message is that the vaccines do work against this delta variant.”

According to the survey, vaccine willingness rates varied among Arizonans of different racial groups, education levels and ages.

“College-educated white respondents reported an 81% vaccination rate while 57% of non-college-educated white respondents said they had been vaccinated,” the survey said. “However, 58% of college-educated Hispanic/Latinos say they have vaccinated, and a statistically equivalent 56% of non-college-educated Hispanic/Latinos are vaccinated as well.”

According to the Arizona Department of Health Services, the state has had more than 911,000 cases of COVID-19, and over 3.6 million Arizonans have received at least one vaccine dose. The percentage of Arizona residents vaccinated against COVID-19 is 51.2%.

“Things are definitely accelerating, and if we stay on this trend, we could definitely see a new surge,” LaBaer said.

Vaccine hesitancy could be a potential roadblock to achieving herd immunity against COVID-19 in Arizona, according to Mike Noble, OH Predictive Insights’ chief of research.

“As the lack of concern among the unvaccinated continues, coupled with the fact that nearly all COVID deaths in the nation are now among the unvaccinated, I echo CDC Director Dr. Walensky’s quote from the White House COVID briefing: ‘This is becoming a pandemic of the unvaccinated,’” Noble said in a news release Wednesday.

Of the nearly 160 million fully vaccinated adults across the country, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports there have been nearly 6,000 “breakthrough” cases of vaccinated individuals who became so sick they required hospitalization or died.

Health experts have also noted a pattern of new COVID-19 cases arising primarily in unvaccinated people.

“Areas with lower rates of vaccination are most susceptible to the spread of COVID-19, which is an increasing concern with the more-contagious Delta variant becoming more common around Arizona,” Dr. Cara Christ, director of the Arizona Department of Health Services, said in a blog post last week.

According to the OH Insights survey, vaccine rates were highest among respondents who were “moderately/extremely concerned” about COVID-19 in Arizona, suggesting that this group has reached herd immunity among themselves.


Story by Rithwik Kalale, Cronkite News