May 3, 2021

Axios Vitals

Good morning.

Today's word count is 992, or a 4-minute read.

1 big thing: There's not just one kind of vaccine hesitancy
Expand chart
Data: The Harris Poll; Chart: Will Chase/Axios

Around 10% of Americans aren't very eager to get the vaccine, but they're not really hesitant either — they're just waiting to get it until they get around to it, according to new Harris polling.

Why it matters: Making vaccination more convenient will be a big part of the difficult process of getting more shots in arms, now that many of the most eager Americans have gotten their shots.

The big picture: As of late April, 43% of respondents said they'd already gotten a shot and another 12% said they plan to go to get one the first day they're able to.

  • 10% said they'll get the vaccine whenever they get around to it, and 21% said they will wait awhile and see before getting the vaccine.
  • 14% of respondents said they won't get a vaccine — virtually unchanged since January.

In the real world, about 56% of U.S. adults had received at least one shot as of Saturday, per the CDC, suggesting that we're getting very close to the end of the "vaccine eager" population.

What they're saying: "As those Americans most eager to get the vaccine have now been able to do so, the hard part of earning the trust of those with hesitations or who don’t view it as a top priority begins," said John Gerzema, CEO of The Harris Poll.

What we're watching: Making the shots convenient is one of the best ways to reach those who say they'll get it whenever they get around to it, Johns Hopkins' Tara Kirk Sell said.

  • "This is actually a very manageable issue. We have people who are willing to get the vaccine, we just have to get it to them," she said. "I think this is a group that is a prime target for the next stage of vaccination."

Go deeper.

2. Pfizer takes aim at waste

Pfizer said it will distribute smaller trays of COVID-19 vaccine to states by the end of May to reduce potential waste, Axios' Marisa Fernandez reports.

Why it matters: As public demand for vaccine teeters, state health officials see smaller clinical settings as the next step in vaccinating a remaining proportion of Americans who haven't sought out an appointment for a shot.

What we're hearing: "Having a smaller minimum order quantity of course means that you're going to have less wastage, especially in those rural areas," Tanya Alcorn, Pfizer's vice president for global supply chain, tells Axios.

  • Pfizer is preparing distribution with the federal government for a smaller three-tray, 25-vial pack size, which contains 450 doses. The company anticipates allocating 4.5 million doses per week to the federal government in this type of packaging.

The state of play: The smaller packages of vaccine can also help fuel more spontaneous decisions for people on the fence at physician offices, religious congregations or recreation centers, Steven Stack, commissioner of the Kentucky Department for Public Health, said.

  • "Personal physician offices and clinics need to reach people in their persuadable moment," he said.
3. Vaccine hesitancy around the world
Expand chart
Data: Gallup; Chart: Michelle McGhee/Axios

More than 1 billion adults around the world said in 2020 that they wouldn't agree to be vaccinated against the coronavirus, per new Gallup polling released today.

Why it matters: Only slightly more than two-thirds — 68% — of adults worldwide said they would agree to be vaccinated if a shot was available to them at no cost.

  • That's less than the estimated 70–90% of the global population that would need to be required to reach herd immunity.

Yes, but: As vaccines continue to roll out across the world, attitudes toward them may change.

  • That's exactly what happened in the U.S. In 2020, only slightly more than half of adults said they'd agree to be vaccinated. In March, as the vaccination effort was well underway, that had increased to 74% of adults.

Explore the data. (Link goes live at 10 am ET.)

4. Telehealth utilization dropped in February

Telehealth utilization among those with private insurance fell by 16% from January to February this year, the first month-to-month drop since September, according to FAIR Health's Monthly Telehealth Regional Tracker.

Why it matters: It's to be expected that as the pandemic fades, health care services will increasingly be provided in-person again. But a lot of money has been bet on virtual care continuing at higher levels than pre-pandemic — the question is how much higher.

Details: Mental health conditions remained at the top of the list of telehealth diagnoses.

  • But COVID-19 had disappeared from the top five diagnoses, potentially a reflection of the steady drop in national cases in February.
5. CVS launches digital health fund

CVS Health launched a new $100 million venture fund called CVS Health Ventures with plans to invest in digital health startups, Axios' Tina Reed reports.

Why it matters: With nearly 10,000 retail locations around the U.S. and its Aetna subsidiary serving more than 22 million members, any investment by CVS Health has some serious potential for scale.

Details: CVS Health has already made more than 20 direct investments through the CVS and Aetna businesses. Officials say this venture fund is targeted at early-stage groups and will help them scale through commercial relationships. It also fits with their strategy embracing increased healthcare consumerism.

What they're saying: "Forming CVS Health Ventures will build on our successful track record of scaling innovation and driving change in health care," said CVS' Health's CEO Karen Lynch

What we're hearing: "CVS Health is a $100 billion company and investing one-tenth of 1% of their market cap isn't going to fix healthcare, but it's a good start," Andrew Dudum, CEO and co-founder of telehealth brand Hims & Hers told Fierce Healthcare.

6. Catch up quick

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

The White House will restrict travel from India starting at midnight on Tuesday, May 4, White House press secretary Jen Psaki announced on Friday.

The Australian government said late Friday that its citizens and residents who have been in India within the past two weeks will be barred from re-entry starting Monday.

Countries around the world are sending supplies and aid to India to help the country fight its COVID-19 outbreak, currently the world's worst.

Pfizer has committed to sending 4.5 million doses of its COVID-19 vaccine to South Africa by June, with some 300,000 set to arrive Sunday, Health Minister Zweli Mkhize has announced.

The World Health Organization late Friday listed Moderna's coronavirus vaccine for emergency use, authorizing that the shot can be part of the U.N.-backed COVAX initiative.