How a Coronavirus Vaccine Could Fail: Not Enough People Get Immunized

August 17, 2020 Topic: Health Blog Brand: Coronavirus Tags: CoronavirusCOVID-19HealthVaccine

How a Coronavirus Vaccine Could Fail: Not Enough People Get Immunized

Will enough people take the vaccine to even make a difference?

Being able to quickly green-light a viable vaccine that could stymie the ongoing global coronavirus pandemic is increasingly becoming a moot point, as most Americans are still indicating in polls that they will be passing on a free COVID-19 vaccine when it becomes available.

If this trend continues, many health experts could be left wondering: Will enough people take the vaccine to even make a difference?

“Now we’re in a global crisis, and funding and attention is urgent,” Peter Pitts, who oversaw the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s public outreach programs during the George W. Bush administration, told USA Today.

“As far as I can tell, there’s no strategy on the federal or state or local levels to educate the public relative the value of a COVID vaccine specifically, or to vaccines just in general.”

Even as the United States continues to witness a surging number of deaths due to the novel coronavirus, a recent Gallup poll revealed that 35% of Americans would still refuse to roll up their sleeves for a vaccine that is approved by the FDA.

In late May, a poll from the Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research indicated that 49% of Americans said they would get vaccinated, 20% said they wouldn’t and 31% said they weren’t sure.

According to a Yahoo News/YouGov poll, conducted between July 28 and 30, only 42% of Americans are planning to get vaccinated for COVID-19. This figure is down from May, when 55% said they would get vaccinated.

Some experts have pointed their fingers at the Trump administration, saying that it made a mistake by emphasizing speed over safety when it announced federal funding for “Operation Warp Speed,” an initiative that is designed to accelerate the development, manufacturing and distribution of an effective coronavirus vaccine.

“Understanding and respecting what people believe and what is important to them is really crucial,” Lois Privor-Dumm, a senior research associate with the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health and an expert in vaccine introduction, told USA Today.

The Yahoo News/YouGov poll revealed that 34% said they are “very concerned” about the safety of a “fast-tracked” coronavirus vaccine, and another 35% said they are “somewhat concerned.” In a recent CBS News poll, about half of Americans said they will “wait and see” what happens to others before getting vaccinated themselves.

In an effort to ameliorate such concerns, FDA chief Dr. Stephen Hahn recently assured the public that safety would continue to be a top priority as the agency seeks to get a coronavirus vaccine cleared in the coming months.

“Let me assure you that we will not cut corners,” Hahn said during a video briefing with the American Medical Association. “All of our decisions will continue to be based on good science and the same careful deliberative processes we have always used when reviewing medical products.”

Hahn also asked doctors nationwide to do their part in getting Americans vaccinated.

“We hope that you will urge your patients to take an approved vaccine, so that we can seek to establish widespread immunity,” he said. “We can emerge from this emergency only by working together.”

There are now more than 21.7 million confirmed cases of coronavirus worldwide, including at least 776,000 deaths, according to the latest data from Johns Hopkins University.

Ethen Kim Lieser is a Minneapolis-based Science and Tech Editor who has held posts at Google, The Korea Herald, Lincoln Journal Star, AsianWeek and Arirang TV. Follow or contact him on LinkedIn.