WASHINGTON, Sept 1 (Reuters) - As the United States gears up for a COVID-19 vaccine booster campaign, most vaccinated Americans want the additional dose, a Reuters/Ipsos opinion poll found, largely driven by concern over the highly contagious Delta variant of the coronavirus.
The U.S. government said if health regulators approve the move, it will roll out COVID-19 booster shots starting Sept. 20 out of concern about waning vaccine protection against COVID-19 infections. Many scientists say the need for a booster has not been proven. The government has already made third shots available to immunocompromised adults.
The national survey, conducted Aug. 27-30, found that among those adults who received at least one dose of a coronavirus vaccine, 76% want a booster, while 6% do not and 18% were not sure. Among those aged 55 and over, 80% said they want one.
"I've got a four-year-old grandson. I want to make sure he knows me," said retired journalist Dora Ann Reaves, 75, from South Carolina. "I'm going to take every opportunity to take every shot I can. I've already had everything else I can have, other than taking shots for bubonic plague."
The results reflect anxiety over the Delta variant that has caused a surge in infections and hospitalizations, and show the public favors boosters more than scientists do, said Jason Gallagher, an infectious diseases expert at Temple University.
"There's a lot of hedging among people in the medical community about the necessity of boosters, so it sounds like the general public is more in favor than a lot of practitioners are," he said.
There is no harm in some people not wanting a booster because not everyone needs one, Gallagher said, adding that at-risk individuals should get them. The U.S. began offering the additional shot last month to people with compromised immune systems.
Among those who want boosters, almost 43% said they were worried about the Delta variant and over 34% cited their age.
Concern that their initial inoculation was no longer effective was cited by 28% of respondents, while 15% said they were immunocompromised or otherwise at high risk.
"I would like to get the booster to be on the safe side," said Texan customer service representative Joe Guerra, 63, who has rheumatoid arthritis, which could put him at higher risk. Many widely used medicines for the condition suppress the immune system.
Guerra also expressed concern that millions of Americans remain unvaccinated.
As of Aug. 31, over 66 million people - 25% of U.S. adults - have not received a single vaccine dose, data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows.
"It's not a smart thing to not get it. Just play by the rules, keep yourself safe, keep those around you safe," said high school graduate Jamarii Perrington, 18, in Massachusetts.
The Reuters/Ipsos poll was conducted online, in English, throughout the United States. It gathered responses from 4,427 adults, including 3,042 who had received at least once dose of a COVID-19 vaccine and 2,374 who expressed interest in a booster shot.
Ipsos weighted the results using the latest population and vaccination statistics so that they better reflected the U.S. population. The results have a credibility interval, a measure of precision, of 2 percentage points.
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