WASHINGTON — Twenty percent of Americans and 32% of Republicans worry that COVID-19 vaccine is being used by the U.S. government to install microchips, according to a new poll from The Economist magazine and survey firm YouGov.
The survey shows political divides and some of the reasons behind continued hesitancies toward the coronavirus vaccines.
It also comes as the Biden administration pressures Facebook and other social media platforms to restrict “health misinformation” and anti-vaccine content. There is also a renewed push for COVID mask mandates and restrictions — especially for the unvaccinated — as government health officials worry about the Delta variant of the virus.
Vaccine hesitancy is coming more from Republicans with 29% saying they won’t get vaccines. That compares to 23% of independents and just 4% of Democrats, according to the survey.
Overall, 42% of Republicans and 35% of independents are opposed to or are still unsure about getting a COVID vaccine versus 10% of Democrats, according to the 1,500-person survey which was conducted July 10 to 13.
In terms of reasons for not getting COVID vaccine shots, the YouGov survey found 85% of unvaccinated respondents felt the threats of the virus were being overstated for political reasons. That compares to just 25% of the vaccinated. Forty nine percent of the unvaccinated are also concerned about vaccines causing autism.
The survey’s question about being worried about the government using COVID mass vaccine efforts to microchip and track Americans digs into some of the political and cultural reticence around vaccines and the government’s mass COVID vaccination efforts.
According to the survey, 27% of white men without college degrees, 23% of Hispanics, 20% of Blacks and 23% of white women without college degrees believe vaccine microchips are definitely or probably true. The YouGov survey found 32% of Republicans believe the COVID vaccines could contain microchips. That compares to 14% of Democrats and 23% of independents.
President Joe Biden, White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki and U.S. Surgeon General Vivek Murthy are calling for more social media crackdowns on “health misinformation.”
Murthy wants to see health education training in schools and for journalists. He is also telling Americans not to share some vaccine-related content online.
“Each of us has the power to stop health misinformation in its tracks. So the next time you want to share a health-related article or video, check your sources and make sure the information is backed by scientific experts. If you’re not sure, don’t share,” he said in a statement.
On Monday, Biden repeated Psaki’s comments that 12 leading proponents — including Robert F. Kennedy Jr. — are responsible for the bulk of anti-vaccine posts online.
The U.S. government’s push for Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and other social media channels to restrict anti-vaccine content is getting push back from conservatives and libertarians worried it is approaching de-facto censorship.
“Big tech and Biden don’t get to define free speech,” said U.S. Rep. Andy Biggs, R-Ariz., in response to the government’s misinformation push.
Former President Donald Trump tied vaccine hesitancy into mistrust of the government and news media and kept up his claims that Biden won the 2020 race because of irregularities and improperly counted mail-in votes.
“He’s way behind schedule,” Trump said of Biden’s vaccine pushes. “And people are refusing to take the vaccine because they don’t trust his Administration, they don’t trust the election results, and they certainly don’t trust the fake news, which is refusing to tell the truth.” Trump’s election fraud contentions were turned away by the U.S. Supreme Court and other courts.
Biden had wanted to see 70% of the population with at least one COVID vaccine shot by July 4. As of Monday, July 19, 68.2% of the adult population and 56% of the total population had at least one COVID shot.
In Maryland, 57.9% of the state’s population is fully vaccinated against COVID, according to the state health agency.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control reports 48.6% of the total U.S. population and 59.4% of the adult population are fully vaccinated.
Concerns about the Delta variant from India have resulted in renewed mask pushes in Los Angeles County and Las Vegas, even for the vaccinated. France is going to require vaccinations for health care workers and is instituting a COVID vaccine passport. That has sparked protests.
In Maryland, there are currently 134 hospitalizations for COVID statewide. That is down from more than 1,900 hospitalizations attributed to the virus in January.