Axios Vitals

A briefcase with a red cross on the front.
January 12, 2021

Good morning.

  • Join me, Axios co-founders Mike Allen and Jim VandeHei, and other Axios reporters on Thursday at 12:30pm for our first Axios Town Hall event, where we will discuss what's ahead for our team in 2021 in the war for truth. RSVP here.

Today's word count is 883, or a 3-minute read.

1 big thing: Trump administration aims to speed up vaccinations

Illustration of syringes forming a health plus/cross
Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios

The Trump administration is set to deliver new guidelines today that will get coronavirus vaccinations moving much faster, Axios' Mike Allen and Sam Baker report.

Driving the news: New federal guidelines will recommend opening up the process to everyone older than 65, and will also aim to move doses out the door rather than holding some back.

Why it matters: The early phases of the vaccination effort were designed to put the highest-risk people at the front of the line, but the pace of inoculations has frustrated experts and everyday Americans alike.

  • The administration's new guidelines aim to speed things up and ultimately move the U.S. closer to the widespread immunity that will put the pandemic behind us.

Details: The federal government is making three big changes, according to a senior administration official:

  • Recommending that states open the vaccination process to everyone older than 65 and to adults of all ages who have a pre-existing condition that puts them at greater risk for serious infection.
  • Expanding the venues where people can get vaccinated to include community health centers and more pharmacies.
  • Getting all the available doses out the door now. Both of the authorized vaccines require two shots; the government will no longer hold back doses for the second shot, but will instead try to get today's doses into people's arms now, trusting that supplies will increase rapidly enough to provide second shots.

These changes reflect a changing consensus about how best to distribute the vaccines — shifting away from a strict risk-based prioritization system, toward prioritizing getting as many shots into as many arms as possible, as quickly as possible.

  • Opening the doors to all seniors and high-risk patients mirrors steps some states have already taken, with public health experts' encouragement, and President-elect Joe Biden has said his administration would not hold back doses for people’s second shots.

Go deeper.

2. More Americans want the vaccine

Data: Axios/Ipsos survey; Chart: Axios Visuals
Data: Axios/Ipsos survey; Chart: Axios Visuals

Americans are more eager to get a coronavirus vaccine now that the process is underway, according to the latest installment of the Axios-Ipsos Coronavirus Index.

Why it matters: This is an encouraging sign, and an indication that at least some vaccine hesitancy was simple wait-and-see caution — not dug-in opposition, Sam writes.

By the numbers: 60% of Americans say they're likely to take a vaccine as soon as it's available to them, up eight percentage points since mid-December.

  • There was a staggering 20-point jump in the number of Hispanic respondents who said they'd get vaccinated right away. Seniors also became much more amenable to a vaccine.

Between the lines: Last year, when vaccines weren't yet available to anyone, the Axios-Ipsos survey has consistently shown that people were putting a higher premium on ensuring that vaccines were safe than on getting one right away.

  • Now that inoculations have begun, and no serious safety issues have arisen, more people are feeling more comfortable about claiming their spot in line.

Real-world experience with this worsening pandemic may also be driving more interest in a vaccine: 44% of Hispanic Americans in our survey said they know someone who has died from COVID-19, as did 34% of Black respondents and 31% of white Americans.

Yes, but: There's still a stubborn partisan divide, with Democrats significantly more likely than Republicans to say they'll get vaccinated promptly.

Bonus: The partisan divide

Data: Axios/Ipsos survey; Chart: Axios Visuals
Data: Axios/Ipsos survey; Chart: Axios Visuals

3. The challenge of vaccinating rural America

Data: KFF; Chart: Axios Visuals
Data: KFF; Chart: Axios Visuals

Rural Americans are especially hesitant to receive a coronavirus vaccine, and only a highly tailored outreach campaign is likely to change that, the Kaiser Family Foundation's Drew Altman writes in today's column.

The big picture: Even as the coronavirus has surged throughout rural America, most people who live in those areas don't see vaccination part of a social responsibility to help protect others.

By the numbers: In KFF polling, 35% of rural Americans say they probably or definitely will not get vaccinated, compared to 26% of urban Americans.

  • Rural Americans are less worried than their urban counterparts that someone in their family will get sick from the virus, and they're more likely to say the pandemic is exaggerated.

Between the lines: Many people in rural America are part of President Trump's base, but partisanship alone does not fully explain their vaccine hesitancy.

  • 62% of rural residents see getting vaccinated as a personal choice, compared with just 36% who see it as part of their responsibility to protect the health of others in the community.

Drew's thought bubble: Addressing this hesitancy will require convincing rural Americans about the seriousness of the pandemic, and then that the vaccine is a way to protect them, their families and their way of life. 

  • As neighbors are vaccinated, some of the hesitancy we see in rural America may fade away.
  • But it will require very targeted digital messaging to reach these more conservative, vaccine-resistant rural populations.

Go deeper.

4. Catch up quick

Illustrated collage of a cut up coronavirus cell.
Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Biden publicly received his second dose of the Pfizer coronavirus vaccine on Monday in Newark, Delaware.

Moderna's coronavirus vaccine will provide immunity from the disease for at least one year, the biotech company said Monday, per Reuters.

States are trying to speed up the coronavirus vaccination process by making vaccines more widely available to different groups of people, setting up mass administration sites and, in some cases, offering vaccinations around the clock, AP reports.

World Health Organization chief scientist Soumya Swaminathan warned Monday that herd immunity is unlikely to be achieved this year despite COVID-19 vaccines being rolled out.