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The unvaccinated still think Covid vaccines are a risk, survey finds

(CNN) Just over half of Americans who remain unvaccinated against Covid-19 still believe the vaccine is more dangerous than the coronavirus -- despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary, according to a new survey published Wednesday.

Unvaccinated adults still also largely believe the news media have exaggerated the severity of the pandemic, and are less likely than vaccinated adults to wear a mask in public, according to the ongoing Kaiser Family Foundation survey.

The health-focused nonprofit group surveyed 1,500 US adults between July 15 and 27 for this chapter of its survey, and found little change among those with the most hardened attitudes about vaccination. About 14% of those surveyed say they will "definitely not" get vaccinated -- the same proportion as in December.

"Among those who say they will 'definitely not' get a vaccine, 75% say the news is exaggerated. The sharply different views of the vaccinated and unvaccinated help to explain the contentiousness of ongoing policy debates about vaccine mandates," KFF said in its report.

Only 23% of adults who have yet to get vaccinated say they believe vaccines are very or extremely effective at preventing death -- despite strong evidence that they are.

"A narrow majority (53%) of unvaccinated adults believe the vaccine poses a bigger risk to their health than COVID-19 itself," Kaiser said. "In contrast, an overwhelming majority (88%) of vaccinated adults say that getting infected with COVID-19 is a bigger risk to their health than the vaccine."

"The increase in COVID-19 cases and news of the Delta variant spreading in the U.S. has made some people say they are more likely to wear a mask in public or avoid large gatherings, though this is mainly driven by vaccinated adults," KFF said.

"Seeing their friends get sick and local hospitals fill up again with COVID patients may speed them along and add to their ranks," KFF President and CEO Drew Altman said in a statement.

The survey found 57% unvaccinated people said news media have "generally exaggerated" the pandemic's impact, while three-fourths of vaccinated adults say media have been "generally correct" (53%) or even "underestimated" its severity (24%).

Among vaccinated adults, 53% say they wear masks in grocery stores and other indoor places, compared to 44% of unvaccinated adults.

"These differences are to a large degree driven by unvaccinated Republicans. Majorities of Republicans say they 'never' wear a mask outdoors in crowded outdoor places, at work, or in a grocery store," KFF said.

A quarter of unvaccinated people -- 8% of all adults -- say they are likely to get vaccinated by the end of the year.

But 10% of adults who remain unvaccinated say they want to "wait and see" how the vaccine works for other people before getting vaccinated. Another 3% say they will be immunized "only if required." But that's down from 6% in June.

The survey found people divided on whether the federal government should recommend employers require vaccines among their employees. Half said the federal government should recommend employers require staff to get the COVID-19 vaccine unless they have a medical exception.

Three quarters of Democrats support a mandate for federal employees, while two-thirds of Republicans oppose the idea.