Vaccine regret went mainstream this week. Fear of getting sick could finally be encouraging some Americans to get their shots.

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Dr. Joseph Varon (right) speaks to a patient in the COVID-19 intensive care unit at the United Memorial Medical Center in Houston, Texas on December 29, 2020.

  • Several hospitalized coronavirus patients expressed regret this week for not getting vaccinated.
  • Their stories may be resonating with other unvaccinated Americans.
  • Vaccination rates are increasing in states with recent COVID-19 surges like Arkansas and Louisiana.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

US health authorities are calling it “a pandemic of the unvaccinated.” In the last two weeks, average COVID-19 hospitalizations have risen more than 50%, with unvaccinated people now representing the vast majority – around 97% – of hospitalized cases, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

For many of these patients, their illness was a wake-up call.

“I’m admitting young, healthy people to the hospital with very serious COVID infections,” Dr. Brytney Cobia, a hospitalist at Grandview Medical Center in Birmingham, Alabama, wrote on Facebook on Sunday. “One of the last things they do before they’re intubated is beg me for the vaccine. I hold their hand and tell them that I’m sorry, but it’s too late.”

Several other hospitalized patients publicly expressed regret this week for not getting vaccinated.

Amanda Spencer, a 37-year-old woman from Ohio, told her local news site WBNS-10TV that she was initially worried about side effects from the shot. She spent 11 days in a medically-induced coma after getting COVID-19 in June.

“After what I went through, I would’ve much rather been sick for a couple of days and have the mild symptoms that maybe the shot causes than to go through what I went through,” Spencer said on Thursday.

Abderrahmane Fadi, a 60-year-old science teacher in the UK, told the BBC that spending nine days in the hospital with COVID-19 was “the punishment I deserve” for not getting vaccinated.

“It’s like a hammer in my head all the time: ‘Why didn’t you have the vaccine? You had all the chances, the opportunities, the appointments, the letters – everything,'” Fadi said.

These stories may be resonating with unvaccinated Americans lately.

Over the last week, the five states with the highest COVID-19 case rates – Arkansas, Florida, Louisiana, Missouri, and Nevada – had higher vaccination rates than the national average, the CDC said. In Louisiana, the number of first doses administered daily has risen 50% in the last two weeks, from roughly 3,600 to 5,400 per day. Arkansas’s daily first doses also rose 85% during that time, from around 2,800 to 5,300 per day.

“Whether it’s seeing loved ones sick or something else, it’s having an impact,” Ashish Jha, dean of the Brown School of Public Health, wrote of COVID-19 surges in states with rising vaccination rates.

Rising cases and hospitalizations could change the minds of vaccine skeptics

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Maryland National Guard Specialist James Truong (right) administers a Moderna vaccine at CASA de Maryland’s Wheaton Welcome Center in Wheaton, Maryland on May 21, 2021.

It’s hard to know exactly why vaccinations have risen in some states and not others. At the national level, average daily vaccinations have actually declined 15% in the last week, even though no state has vaccinated more than 75% of its residents so far, and 16 states haven’t crossed the 50% threshold.

“We can’t really say with any certainty why we’re seeing an uptick in vaccinations,” Mindy Faciane, a public information officer for the Louisiana Department of Health, told Insider. But rising hospitalizations may be having some effect, she added.

“We think some Louisianans are also seeing the rising numbers of cases and hospitalizations among the unvaccinated, seeing the more contagious Delta variant in circulation and how it’s affecting their communities, and understanding that it is really urgent,” Faciane said. “They’re working through whatever questions they may have had about the vaccine and are now extra motivated to protect themselves and their loved ones in a way they hadn’t before.”

Indeed, data collected by The Economist and polling site YouGov indicates that the escalating severity of the pandemic can successfully change the minds of vaccine skeptics. In Taiwan, for instance, people reported that they were more likely to get a COVID-19 vaccine following a spike in cases in May, which forced the country back into a partial lockdown.

“Anecdotally, we are hearing from pharmacists and healthcare providers administering shots that more Arkansans are seeing the urgency in the need to get vaccinated as cases increase in the state,” Arkansas’s state health director, Dr. José Romero, told Insider.

Romero said earlier this month that his department’s vaccination strategy includes highlighting stories of unvaccinated people who became severely ill from COVID-19 – like a couple whose baby was delivered while the mother was still on a ventilator.

“Those people are becoming ambassadors and getting these public service messages out,” Romero said, adding, “This couple in particular exemplifies the view that many, many people have in the state – that is, ‘This is nothing, it’s an insignificant viral infection’ – and really shows the consequences of that type of belief.”

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A 22% surge in US coronavirus deaths is hitting unvaccinated people hardest. Experts worry about the long-term effects for vaccinated people, too.

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El Paso County Medical Examiner’s Office staff roll bodies in bags labeled “COVID” from refrigerated trailers into the morgue office on November 23.

  • The US’s daily coronavirus deaths surged 22% in the past week – mostly among unvaccinated Americans.
  • Disease experts worry about breakthrough cases in older people or those who are immunocompromised.
  • Increased transmission could also allow the virus to mutate into a more dangerous strain.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

The US is far removed from the deadliest point in its coronavirus outbreak: The country reported more than 3,000 daily coronavirus deaths in January, compared with less than 275 daily deaths, on average, in the past week.

But average daily deaths surged 22% in the past seven days, following a record low of 30 deaths on July 11. In the past two weeks, average daily deaths rose 33%.

The vast majority these deaths are among unvaccinated Americans: Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, told NBC earlier this month that unvaccinated people represented more than 99% of recent coronavirus deaths. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention also reported Friday that more than 97% of people entering hospitals with symptomatic COVID-19 hadn’t received shots.

The US is now dealing with a “pandemic of the unvaccinated,” CDC Director Rochelle Walensky said at a press briefing.

“We are seeing outbreaks of cases in parts of the country that have low vaccination coverage because unvaccinated people are at risk, and communities that are fully vaccinated are generally faring well,” Walensky said.

But disease experts worry that allowing the virus to spread among unvaccinated people could give it more opportunities to mutate. That could pose a long-term risk for vaccinated people, too. Already, the Delta variant – now the dominant strain in the US – appears to be more transmissible than any other version of the virus detected so far.

“The worst-case scenario is if Delta mutates into something completely different, a completely different animal, and then our current vaccines are even less effective or ineffective,” Vivek Cherian, an internal-medicine physician in Baltimore, told Insider last month.

Experts also worry that increased transmission could result in more severe breakthrough infections – cases of COVID-19 diagnosed at least two weeks after someone is fully vaccinated – among older people or those who are immunocompromised, since vaccines may already be less effective among these groups.

People over 65 represent about 75% of breakthrough cases that result in hospitalization or death, according to the CDC.

The UK offers insight into what to expect in the US

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Outdoor dining in Soho, London, on April 18.

Disease experts worry that the US could soon follow in the footsteps of the UK, where average deaths have more than doubled in the past two weeks, from 17 to 40 a day. The UK’s average hospitalizations have also increased about 60% during that time, from about 380 to 615 a day.

That’s despite the fact that nearly 70% of UK residents have received at least one vaccine dose.

In the US, about 44% of the population remains unvaccinated. (That includes about 48 million children under age 12, for whom vaccines haven’t been authorized yet.)

The country is now administering as many daily vaccine doses as it was in late December, when vaccines were available only to healthcare workers and residents of long-term-care facilities. Just 384,000 daily doses were given out on average over the past week.

Some Americans, particularly in rural counties, may still struggle to access shots, while others can’t afford to take time off work to get vaccinated. But, for the most part, widespread vaccine hesitancy has slowed down vaccination rates.

About 18% of adults surveyed in a recent YouGov poll said they didn’t plan to get vaccinated, while 11% said they were unsure. These rates were significantly higher among Republicans and people in the Midwest and South.

Most vaccine-hesitant people in the survey said they were worried about side effects from coronavirus shots – though studies have shown that vaccine side effects are generally mild and fleeting. The vast majority of them also said they believed that the threat of the virus was exaggerated for political reasons.

Lifting mask and social-distancing mandates could delay herd immunity

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A couple at Madison Square Garden in New York City on June 20.

Despite lagging vaccination rates, most US states have lifted mask and social-distancing mandates. In states such as Delaware, Florida, Missouri, and South Carolina, masks are recommended but not required for unvaccinated people.

Some disease experts said removing these restrictions too soon could send the wrong message about the state of the pandemic.

“The concern is if you’re on the fence, and then you go outside and you see, ‘Hey, things are back to normal,’ that may decrease the chance of you wanting to even get vaccinated,” Cherian said.

For now, experts are hopeful that the US can still vaccinate at least 70 to 85% of its population – a threshold that may allow the country to reach herd immunity. But a new variant that evades protection from vaccines or prior infection could push that goal even further from view, so public-health officials remain determined to vaccinate more Americans as quickly as possible.

“If you get to that situation, then you essentially get us back to a level” that we were in before March 2020, Cherian said, adding: “That’s just not a place that you want to be.”

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Facebook rejects Joe Biden’s claim it’s ‘killing people’ with misinformation, saying vaccine hesitancy among its users has dropped by 50%

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President Joe Biden, left, and Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg.

  • Joe Biden said vaccine misinformation on platforms like Facebook is “killing people.”
  • Facebook responded by saying vaccine hesitancy among its users has fallen 50% since April 2020.
  • Facebook said Biden is trying to blame it for missing his goal of 60% vaccination by July 4.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Facebook is firing back at Joe Biden for claiming the social media site is responsible for vaccine hesitancy.

President Joe Biden said Friday that social media platforms like Facebook are “killing people” by allowing vaccine misinformation to spread.

Guy Rosen, Facebook’s vice president of integrity, published the company’s full rebuttal in a blog post on Saturday.

“The fact is that vaccine acceptance among Facebook users in the US has increased. These and other facts tell a very different story to the one promoted by the administration in recent days,” Rosen said.

Rosen said Facebook has been working with Carnegie Mellon University and the University of Maryland since April 2020 to survey its users, with 70 million responses collected so far.

“For people in the US on Facebook, vaccine hesitancy has declined by 50%; and they are becoming more accepting of vaccines every day,” said Rosen.

Read more: These 7 powerful people are behind Biden’s bid to break up Big Tech

Rosen also specifically took aim at Biden’s goal to get 70% of American adults vaccinated by July 4.

“The data shows that 85% of Facebook users in the US have been or want to be vaccinated against COVID-19. President Biden’s goal was for 70% of Americans to be vaccinated by July 4. Facebook is not the reason this goal was missed,” Rosen said.

As of Sunday, 56% of adults in the US have received vaccinations.

Facebook previously told Insider in a statement the Biden administration was using it as a “scapegoat.” In his blogpost Rosen outlined the various pro-vaccine initiatives Facebook has undertaken, including introducing specialized rules on misinformation around vaccines and setting up vaccine pop-up clinics.

Although it’s hard to measure the direct impact of vaccine misinformation, in March The Center for Countering Digital Hate (CCDH) published a report that said most anti-vaxx misinformation is only spread by a dozen accounts. These twelve accounts have a combined following of 59 million people worldwide according to the CCDH, with Facebook making up the biggest chunk of that following.

Among those twelve accounts is Robert F Kennedy Jr, John F Kennedy’s nephew. Facebook took down Kennedy’s Instagram account in February, but not his Facebook page.

CCDH CEO Imran Ahmed told Insider in February that to properly crack down on vaccine misinformation, Facebook needs to fully deplatform big-name misinformation spreaders like Kennedy.

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Facebook hit back at Biden, saying the White House is looking for ‘scapegoats for missing their vaccine goals’

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Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg and President Joe Biden.

  • President Biden said platforms like Facebook are “killing people” with vaccine misinformation.
  • Facebook defended itself and said the White House was looking for “scapegoats.”
  • The White House failed to reach its goal of inoculating 70% of adults by July 4.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Facebook pushed back at comments President Joe Biden made Friday, accusing the White House of looking for “scapegoats” after missing its vaccination targets.

When asked what his message was to platforms like Facebook, where misinformation about the COVID-19 vaccine spreads, Biden said “they’re killing people.”

“The only pandemic we have is among the unvaccinated, and they’re killing people,” he said.

Read more: These 7 powerful people are behind Biden’s bid to break up Big Tech

In a statement provided to Insider, Facebook defended itself.

“The fact is that more than 2 billion people have viewed authoritative information about COVID-19 and vaccines on Facebook, which is more than any other place on the internet. More than 3.3 million Americans have also used our vaccine finder tool to find out where and how to get a vaccine,” a Facebook spokesperson said. “The facts show that Facebook is helping save lives. Period.”

In an additional statement provided to NBC’s Dylan Byers, a Facebook official said: “In private exchanges the Surgeon General has praised our work, including our efforts to inform people about COVID-19. The White House is looking for scapegoats for missing their vaccine goals.”

The White House fell short of its goal to have 70% of adults vaccinated by July 4, which some have blamed on vaccine hesitancy.

As of Friday, nearly 60% of American adults were fully vaccinated.

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A 24-year-old man who had a double lung transplant after getting COVID-19 said he regretted not getting the vaccine

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  • A 24-year-old who was unvaccinated contracted COVID-19 and needed a double lung transplant.
  • Blake Bargatze told his family he was worried about side effects, but that he regretted not getting the shot.
  • Now he and his family are encouraging others to get vaccinated.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

The family of a 24-year-old man who underwent a double lung transplant after getting sick with COVID-19 said he regretted not getting the shot. Now they’re urging others to get vaccinated.

Blake Bargatze, a 24-year-old from Georgia, was not vaccinated when he attended an indoor concert in Florida in April, his family told WSB. They believe he contracted the virus at the concert. Three months and two transplants later, he remains hospitalized in an intensive care unit.

His mother, Cheryl Nuclo, said her son vaped but had no preexisting conditions. She said he wanted to wait to get the vaccine because he was worried about side effects.

“He wanted to wait until it was out like 10 years or so, kind of like a lot of the population wants it to be out longer,” she told WXIA, adding she hopes her son’s story might persuade others who are hesitant. “I just don’t want anyone else to go through this. It’s horrific.”

After contracting the virus, Bargatze was transferred to several different hospitals as his condition worsened. He was put on an ECMO machine, a device that oxygenates a person’s blood outside their body, allowing their heart and lungs to rest. He got on a lung transplant donor list and was able to have the surgery in June.

Bargatze got the COVID-19 vaccine a few days before his transplant, and has also convinced some hesitant family members to get vaccinated, WXIA reported. His family said he wants to use his experience to educate and encourage others to get vaccinated.

A 25-year-old chef from Toledo, Ohio, is going through a similar situation. Marcus Hartford, who was unvaccinated, got COVID-19 at work and has been hospitalized for three months, his mom, Janelle Janatowski, told NBC News. He has had part of his right lung removed, and may also need a double lung transplant.

Janatowski said her son had no preexisting medical conditions and that he didn’t drink or smoke. She said his age group only became eligible to get the vaccine days before he got COVID-19. She told NBC she was hesitant about getting vaccinated, but that her son’s experience has caused her to reconsider.

“I still feel like this is surreal,” she said. “Like I’m living in a dream.”

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said last week that 99.5% of COVID-19 deaths in the US are now among unvaccinated people. Coronavirus cases and hospitalizations are up in counties with low vaccination rates. Public health officials continue to recommend that Americans get vaccinated, especially as the Delta variant spreads rapidly.

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Fauci said there should be vaccine mandates at the local level but that the federal government will not mandate them

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  • The White House missed its goal of vaccinating 70% of US adults by July 4 amid vaccine hesitancy.
  • Fauci said he supports vaccine mandates at the local level, like at schools and businesses.
  • He also said the vaccines are as good as approved, but that formal full approval may help combat hesitancy.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Dr. Anthony Fauci said Sunday he believes there should be more COVID-19 vaccine mandates at the local level, though he continues to say the federal government will not mandate them.

Fauci, the longtime director of the US National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, was speaking on CNN’s State of the Union when Jake Tapper asked him if he supports local vaccine mandates at places like schools and businesses.

“I do believe at the local level there should be more mandates,” Fauci said. “We’re talking about life and death situation. We’ve lost 600,000 Americans already and we’re still losing more people. There’ve been 4 million deaths worldwide, so I am in favor of that.”

Read more: How anti-vaxxers are engineering a wave of legal battles to fight mandatory workplace Covid jabs

Fauci said he believes part of the reason groups are hesitant to mandate vaccines is because they have not been fully approved. The coronavirus vaccines used in the US have received emergency use authorization, which can be used by the Food and Drug Administration during public health emergencies. But Fauci said the data behind the vaccines is robust.

“The amount of data right now that shows a high degree of effectiveness and a high degree of safety is more than we’ve ever seen with emergency use authorization,” he said. “These vaccines are as good as officially approved, with all the Is dotted and the Ts crossed.”

Fauci said they haven’t received full approval due to processes that have to take place at the FDA but that “it’s as good as done.” He predicted that once they are formally approved, there may be more local mandates.

About 59% of American adults are fully vaccinated, with the US falling short of the White House’s goal to have inoculated 70% of adults by July 4. Vaccines are widely available but public health officials are working to combat vaccine hesitancy, particularly among Republicans.

At a Conservative Political Action Conference event in Dallas, Texas, on Saturday, a crowd cheered about the US failing to meet its vaccination goal. Speaking on CNN, Fauci called the reaction “horrifying.”

“They are cheering about someone saying that it’s a good thing for people not to try and save their lives,” he said.

Have a news tip? Contact this reporter at kvlamis@insider.com.

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GOP Rep. Adam Kinzinger said his party has been hijacked by ‘outrage politics’ that is ‘going to get Americans killed’

Adam Kinzinger
Rep. Adam Kinzinger of Illinois.

  • Some GOP lawmakers were outraged when Biden suggested offering COVID-19 vaccines door-to-door.
  • GOP Rep. Adam Kinzinger said his party’s “outrage politics” is “going to get Americans killed.”
  • Biden missed his goal of inoculating 70% of American adults by July 4 as vaccine hesitancy persists.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Republican Rep. Adam Kinzinger said “outrage politics” being played by the GOP is “going to get Americans killed.”

Kinzinger was speaking on CNN’s State of the Union Sunday when Jake Tapper asked about the reactions of some Republican lawmakers to President Joe Biden’s plans to conduct door-to-door outreach to offer Americans vaccines.

Tapper noted that Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene said the effort sounded like Nazi brown shirts and Sen. Ted Cruz compared it to Soviet Russia.

“It’s absolute insanity,” Kinzinger said. “Now what President Biden said, maybe he could have said it slightly differently, is we’re willing to come to your house to give you the vaccine. At no point was anybody saying they’re going to break down your door and jam a vaccine in your arm despite your protests.”

“This is outrage politics, it is being played by my party, and it’s going to get Americans killed,” he continued.

Read more: Trump’s troubles expand the Republican field. Here’s the 5th edition of Insider’s 2024 presidential power rankings.

He also lambasted members of his party for posting “outrageous” things on Twitter for the retweets and attention it gets them.

“My party has been hijacked,” he said. “And for some people, it’s a fun ride, right? We can put out this outrageous stuff on Twitter. ‘Yeah! I’m getting all these retweets and everybody knows me. I’m famous.’ But this plane is going to crash into the ground.”

Kinzinger has represented Illinois’s 16th congressional district in the House since 2013. He has been a vocal critic of former President Donald Trump, including by voting in favor of his impeachment, and has frequently criticized pro-Trump lawmakers like Greene and Cruz.

On Tuesday, Biden suggested a door-to-door campaign to offer vaccines after the US fell short of his goal to have inoculated 70% of adults by July 4. As of Sunday, nearly 59% of American adults are fully vaccinated, according to the CDC.

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How to confront common science denial arguments, according to 2 psychologists

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A protester holds an anti-vaccination sign during a rally on May 16, 2020 in Woodland Hills, California.

  • Denying, doubting, and resisting scientific explanations led to more COVID-19 deaths than expected.
  • Two research psychologists offer ways to understand and combat this issue of science denial.
  • Be aware of what you share on social media and recognize that people operate with misguided beliefs.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Science denial became deadly in 2020. Many political leaders failed to support what scientists knew to be effective prevention measures. Over the course of the pandemic, people died from COVID-19 still believing it didn’t exist.

Science denial is not new, of course. But it’s more important than ever to understand why some people deny, doubt, or resist scientific explanations – and what can be done to overcome these barriers to accepting science.

In our book “Science Denial: Why It Happens and What to Do About It,” we offer ways for you to understand and combat the problem. As two research psychologists, we know that everyone is susceptible to forms of it. Most importantly, we know there are solutions.

Here’s our advice on how to confront five psychological challenges that can lead to science denial.

Read more: 3 things need to happen if the US wants to create a safe and organized vaccine-passport system, Okta’s CEO says

Challenge 1: Social identity

People are social beings and tend to align with those who hold similar beliefs and values. Social media amplifies alliances. You’re likely to see more of what you already agree with and fewer alternative points of view. People live in information filter bubbles created by powerful algorithms. When those in your social circle share misinformation, you are more likely to believe it and share it. Misinformation multiplies and science denial grows.

Action No. 1: Each person has multiple social identities. One of us talked with a climate change denier and discovered he was also a grandparent. He opened up when thinking about his grandchildren’s future, and the conversation turned to economic concerns, the root of his denial. Or maybe someone is vaccine-hesitant because so are mothers in her child’s play group, but she’s also a caring person, concerned about immunocompromised children.

We have found it effective to listen to others’ concerns and try to find common ground. Someone you connect with is more persuasive than those with whom you share less in common. When one identity is blocking acceptance of the science, leverage a second identity to make a connection.

Challenge 2: Mental shortcuts

Everyone’s busy, and it would be exhausting to be vigilant deep thinkers all the time. You see an article online with a clickbait headline such as “Eat Chocolate and Live Longer” and you share it, because you assume it’s true, want it to be, or think it is ridiculous.

Action No. 2: Instead of sharing that article on how GMOs are unhealthy, learn to slow down and monitor the quick, intuitive responses that psychologist Daniel Kahneman calls System 1 thinking. Instead turn on the rational, analytical mind of System 2 and ask yourself, how do I know this is true? Is it plausible? Why do I think it is true? Then do some fact-checking. Learn to not immediately accept information you already believe, which is called confirmation bias.

Challenge 3: Beliefs on how and what you know

Everyone has ideas about what they think knowledge is, where it comes from and whom to trust. Some people think dualistically: There’s always a clear right and wrong. But scientists view tentativeness as a hallmark of their discipline. Some people may not understand that scientific claims will change as more evidence is gathered, so they may be distrustful of how public health policy shifted around COVID-19.

Journalists who present “both sides” of settled scientific agreements can unknowingly persuade readers that the science is more uncertain than it actually is, turning balance into bias. Only 57% of Americans surveyed accept that climate change is caused by human activity, compared with 97% of climate scientists, and only 55% think that scientists are certain that climate change is happening.

Action No. 3: Recognize that other people (or possibly even you) may be operating with misguided beliefs about science. You can help them adopt what philosopher of science Lee McIntyre calls a scientific attitude, an openness to seeking new evidence and a willingness to change one’s mind.

Recognize that very few individuals rely on a single authority for knowledge and expertise. Vaccine hesitancy, for example, has been successfully countered by doctors who persuasively contradict erroneous beliefs, as well as by friends who explain why they changed their own minds. Clergy can step forward, for example, and some have offered places of worship as vaccination hubs.

Challenge 4: Motivated reasoning

You might not think that how you interpret a simple graph could depend on your political views. But when people were asked to look at the same charts depicting either housing costs or the rise in carbon dioxide in the atmosphere over time, interpretations differed by political affiliation. Conservatives were more likely than progressives to misinterpret the graph when it depicted a rise in CO2 than when it displayed housing costs. When people reason not just by examining facts, but with an unconscious bias to come to a preferred conclusion, their reasoning will be flawed.

Action No. 4: Maybe you think that eating food from genetically modified organisms is harmful to your health, but have you really examined the evidence? Look at articles with both pro and con information, evaluate the source of that information, and be open to the evidence leaning one way or the other. If you give yourself the time to think and reason, you can short-circuit your own motivated reasoning and open your mind to new information.

Challenge 5: Emotions and attitudes

When Pluto got demoted to a dwarf planet, many children and some adults responded with anger and opposition. Emotions and attitudes are linked. Reactions to hearing that humans influence the climate can range from anger (if you don’t believe it) to frustration (if you’re concerned you may need to change your lifestyle) to anxiety and hopelessness (if you accept it’s happening but think it’s too late to fix things). How you feel about climate mitigation or GMO labeling aligns with whether you are for or against these policies.

Action No. 5: Recognize the role of emotions in decision-making about science. If you react strongly to a story about stem cells used to develop Parkinson’s treatments, ask yourself if you are overly hopeful because you have a relative in early stages of the disease. Or are you rejecting a possibly lifesaving treatment because of your emotions?

Feelings shouldn’t (and can’t) be put in a box separate from how you think about science. Rather, it’s important to understand and recognize that emotions are fully integrated ways of thinking and learning about science. Ask yourself if your attitude toward a science topic is based on your emotions and, if so, give yourself some time to think and reason as well as feel about the issue.

Everyone can be susceptible to these five psychological challenges that can lead to science denial, doubt, and resistance. Being aware of these challenges is the first step toward taking action to meet them.

Barbara K. Hofer, professor of psychology emerita, Middlebury and Gale Sinatra, professor of education and psychology, University of Southern California

The Conversation
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Surging coronavirus cases and deaths in Russia show the Delta variant’s havoc on a largely unvaccinated population

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People wait to get tested for COVID-19 in Omsk, Russia on June 28, 2021.

  • Russia’s daily coronavirus cases have more than doubled in the last month.
  • Deaths are climbing, too, as the Delta variant becomes more widespread.
  • It’s a lesson in what happens when Delta strikes a mostly unvaccinated country, experts said.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Nearly a year after becoming the first nation to authorize a coronavirus shot, Russia has fallen behind in the global vaccine rollout. Just 15% of its population has received at least one dose.

So when Russia identified its first cases of the Delta variant in May, the threat loomed larger than in highly vaccinated countries like Israel, the US, or the UK.

In the last month, Russia’s daily coronavirus cases have more than doubled, from around 8,600 to around 19,500. Deaths have ticked up 54% during the same time, from around 375 per day to 575, according to Our World in Data, a research project from the University of Oxford. (It’s possible that these tallies are undercounts, given past discrepancies between Russia’s official COVID-19 death toll and its sharp increase in mortality during the pandemic.)

At the same time, Delta has come to represent around 88% of Russia’s coronavirus cases, according to GISAID, a global database that collects coronavirus genomes.

“Probably lax use of personal protective measures – like mask use, social distancing, avoiding indoor gatherings, and so forth – is part of the problem, but the Delta variant is really the core part of it,” Davidson Hamer, a professor at the Boston University School of Public Health, told Insider.

Delta is the most transmissible coronavirus variant to date, and may be deadlier than its predecessors. An analysis from Public Health England found that Delta was associated with a 60% increased risk of household transmission compared with the Alpha variant discovered in the UK, though more recent estimates suggest the difference is closer to 40%. The Alpha variant is already about 50% more transmissible than the original strain, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Researchers in Scotland also found that getting infected with the Delta variant doubled the risk of hospital admission relative to Alpha, though vaccines lower that risk. (Previous studies have suggested that the Alpha variant may be 30 to 70% deadlier than the original strain.)

Experts say Delta’s spread makes it all more imperative for countries to get residents vaccinated as quickly as possible. Dozens of other nations, including New Zealand, Pakistan, and Venezuela, still have vaccination rates below 15%.

“Given the increased impact of the Delta variant, it’s likely that around 85% of a population will need to be vaccinated into order to cross the herd immunity threshold,” Michael Head, a senior research fellow at the University of Southampton, told Insider. “That’s going to be difficult to achieve in many settings.”

Russia is struggling with vaccine skepticism

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Ilya Bachurin receives a COVID-19 vaccine in Moscow, Russia on June 25, 2021.

The Russian government reported vaccine shortages in some areas of the country on Friday, but for the most part it doesn’t suffer from a lack of supply. The country has four domestically made vaccines, the most widely available of which, Sputnik V, has been distributed to the public since December.

But Russia is contending with vaccine hesitancy.

Its approval process for Sputnik V raised red flags last summer when Russia’s health agency cleared the vaccine for distribution before it had completed late-stage clinical trials – and after just 38 people had received the shot. By February, an interim analysis published in The Lancet found that Sputnik V was around 92% effective at preventing symptomatic COVID-19. Sputnik V developers said Tuesday that the shot is also around 90% effective against the Delta variant – but Hamer said to take that with a grain of salt.

“The Sputnik vaccine is an adenovirus vector vaccine, like AstraZeneca and the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, and there’s some evidence that these are a little less effective against some of these more seriously mutated variants of concern, like the South African strain and then now Delta,” he said.

A recent poll from the mobile app Doctor’s Manual found that one-third of Russian doctors still aren’t sure about the effectiveness of Russia’s COVID-19 shots.

“One of the key aspects to building vaccine confidence is openness and transparency around effectiveness and safety,” Head said. “Those attributes are not exactly to the fore in Russia, and perhaps they are suffering from low uptake as a result.”

Russian authorities have tried to boost vaccination rates by offering incentives like grocery items or lottery tickets, but the nation still fell short of its goal to vaccinate 30 million people by mid-June.

So as of last week, vaccines are mandatory for certain service workers in Russia, including hairdressers, taxi drivers, and teachers. They can be suspended without pay if they refuse.

“The same approach is being taken a lot of places to try and enforce people to get the vaccines,” Hamer said. “But in Russia in particular, there may be some people that will be resistant to that – they don’t want to be forced to do things they don’t want to do.”

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Nick Offerman says ‘medicine doesn’t care who you voted for’ in testimony on vaccine hesitancy

nick offerman vaccine hesitancy testimony
Actor Nick Offerman testifies on vaccine hesitancy before a congressional committee.

  • Nick Offerman played the role of the ultimate everyman in testimony before Congress on Thursday.
  • “Ignorance is an area which I can claim some authority,” he said of his scientific credentials.
  • The “Parks & Rec” star outlined why the vaccine timeline should not worry those who are hesitant.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Actor and small business owner Nick Offerman testified before Congress Thursday to assuage the anxieties and fears of vaccine-hesitant Americans.

Famous for his plain spoken portrayals of macho characters such as Ron Swanson from NBC’s “Parks and Recreation,” Offerman attempted to take a different line of approach than that of medical experts.

“As an actor, author, and woodworker, I will not be offering medical advice today,” he said from his Bel Air home. “I will leave that to the scientists and medical experts on the panel, also known as the smart people.”

“Instead, I would like to lead with my ignorance in these matters, to represent the rest of the citizens who are not epidemiologists and doctors, but feet on the ground, hands in the dirt people across our country whose lives and livelihoods have taken a pounding from this pandemic,” Offerman continued. “Ignorance is an area which I can claim some authority.”

Touting his wood shop business, Offerman said vaccines have “saved” his company as the COVID-19 shots have become widely available in California’s Los Angeles County.

Offerman said he understands why the vaccines are often referred to as a “miracle” because of their ability to save lives and drastically reduce coronavirus symptoms, “but I don’t think that miracle is quite accurate.”

“A miracle is something inexplicable that appears from nowhere … The vaccine is not a miracle,” he said. “The vaccine is a gift.”

He described the jabs as “the absolute pinnacle of achievement” created by “a bunch of dang geniuses.”

“Now, as we’ve heard, unfortunately, the very expedience with which the vaccine has arrived is also a source of confusion, causing people to fear that it was rushed,” Offerman said. “Well, you’re damn right, folks – it was rushed. It’s a pandemic.”

In plain terms, Offerman outlined why the vaccine timeline starting at Operation Warp Speed under the Trump administration should not worry those who remain hesitant.

“But, you can rest assured, the hustle was not applied to the safety of the vaccine,” he said. “The science didn’t arrive overnight. The science is based on 40 years of work. The hustle was just applied to getting that science to you and me by bypassing the usual bureaucratic hurdles, the red tape.”

He wrapped up his testimony with a call to de-politicize COVID-19 vaccines, which polls have shown draw the most skepticism from Republican men.

“Medicine doesn’t care who you voted for,” Offerman said. “We amazing humans have created a vaccine that serves the common good. The vaccine doesn’t take sides, unless you count alive versus dead.”

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