Why Are Vaccinated Americans Still Worrying About COVID?

A side effect of being vaccinated for COVID-19 is anxiety.

Although I laugh, you might be forgiven for drawing this tongue-in cheek conclusion from the Morning ConsultNew York Times Poll shows that Americans who have been vaccinated and boosted are twice as likely to be concerned about getting sick by COVID-19 in the coming year.

It is the complete opposite of the science. The omicron variant has caused a huge increase in COVIDs, but vaccinated people have far less to be concerned about. Studies from Canada and Britain show that unvaccinated people are more likely than ever to go to hospital. Vaccination has also reduced the chance of getting admitted to an ICU by more than 93%. A Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) analysis shows that people who have had their vaccines boosted and vaxxed are roughly 50% less likely than those who don’t.

Without any serious health problems, vaccinated individuals are safe from COVID. And, thankfully, many vaccinated Americans are embracing the “vaxxed and done” mentality—at least in places where local and state governments are allowing a return to normalcy.

However, this is not the case for all. Morning Consult’s new poll brings to mind Dave Barry’s “year in review” 2021 column. Barry said that many Americans are vaccinated, but act like they’re not. This is meant to be humor. Although many Americans were not vaccinated they still act as if they had.

Also here’s The New York TimesDavid Leonhardt writes a satirical piece about the poll.

It’s one of those polls you should look at because it is simultaneously very bizarre, yet accurately reflects what’s going on in America now that we are entering the third year.

Occam’s Razor suggests that the poll be reversed SeemsTo be exact. It’s not that people who are vaccinated are more worried about COVID—it’s that people who are more worried about COVID are more likely to have gotten vaccinated. It makes complete sense. However, it is disappointing to note that many Americans are not willing to get the vaccine.

A second possibility is that there may be a tendency, especially among “vaxxed-and-worried” people to think it’s “unvaccinated” and “unconcerned”, who are doing the skewing. Everybody should worry more about the disease that still kills thousands every day in America, but it’s not something everyone can ignore.

However, I am not certain that this is true. Unvaccinated people living in low-vaccination areas have greater reason to worry about the impact of the disease on them over the coming year. However, they are more likely than others to have experienced COVID and to know someone who has. We can trust them if they aren’t concerned about the issue. This doesn’t necessarily mean that they are right to doubt vaccination. They’d likely be more comfortable if they had been vaccinated.

Regardless, this doesn’t explain away the unwillingness of vaccinated Americans to drop their COVID anxiety—and to stop forcing that anxiety upon children, who are the real victims of the past two years. It turns out that rural Republicans won’t be as enthused by COVID-related mandates within deep blue cities.

Third and most importantly, you can’t ignore the importance of poor policy making. High vaccination rates are also seen in places like New York City or Washington, D.C., which have recently imposed and reimposed vaccine and/or mask mandates. But the ongoing layering of new rules leaves the impression that residents must escalate their anxiety accordingly—and, no surprise, that anxiety may be captured in polls like this one.

A concert was held in a tiny venue near D.C. on Friday evening. The club had its own rules and not the government’s, so everyone needed to have a valid vaccine card in order to gain entry. Some chose to wear masks as well. The headliner described himself as “so well vaccinated, I could spit my mouth in your face and give you immunity” but actually thanked all those who attended the show, even though it was a little strange that we were performing illegal acts. This was not only a hilarious moment but also a very telling one. All of us were vaccinated. We engaged in an activity that seemed as natural as possible. Yet, the artist had to recognize the oddities. Being normal people on Friday nights.

It is unclear what the final game for pandemic paranoia will be, nor when it will end. This will be gradual as public opinion changes almost always change. There are things about COVID that we now have the power to control—vaccines are the best way to free yourself from the worst outcomes of this disease—and regaining some control is the first step to regaining normalcy.

Anxiety that is uncontrolled or constant can be detrimental to the health of individuals and society. Politicians who encourage anxiety and refuse to remove the masks from children, move the COVID goalsposts endlessly, or prohibit individuals and businesses to determine their risk tolerance levels aren’t helping.