Monday, March 04, 2024
30.0°F

A quarter of Americans might say no to vaccine

| May 26, 2020 1:00 AM

Medical experts are confident a COVID-19 vaccine is a matter of when, not if. Yet even when it’s ready, a quarter of Americans say they don’t plan to take it.

That’s not the only interesting finding of the Reuters/Ipsos online poll of 4,428 U.S. adults this month:

• About 25 percent of Americans have little (10 percent) or no (14 percent) interest in taking a coronavirus vaccine. Another 11 percent were unsure. Some voiced concern that the record pace at which vaccine candidates are being developed could compromise safety.

• Less than two-thirds of respondents said they were “very” or “somewhat” interested in a vaccine, a figure which surprised some health experts, given more than 1.6 million cases and 97,000 deaths in the U.S. reported by the CDC.

• Fourteen percent said they’d be more willing to take a vaccine if the president said it was safe, compared with 36 percent who said they’d be less willing. Perhaps that’s about medical expertise: Among those who said they were “not very” interested in taking a vaccine, 29 percent said they’d be more interested if the FDA approved it. Others said they’d be heavily influenced by results from scientific studies.

• Vaccine interest also illustrated political and demographic divisions (for more poll data see Bit.ly/2X0akgh).

If the poll’s results are indicative of coming reality, it could impact “herd immunity.” Epidemiological experts estimate at least 70 percent of Americans would need to be immune — by vaccine or prior infection — to achieve a more normal status, when enough people are resistant to an infectious disease to prevent spread.

A rush is certainly on across the globe to develop a vaccine. Actually, make that four vaccines, as medical experts say more than one is needed to effectively address different age and health factors.

In a normal world, vaccines typically take about 10 years to develop, safety-test, government-approve, and widely distribute. An estimated 16 billion doses of this one would be needed worldwide — an unprecedented scale.

End of 2020 is highly unlikely and mid-2021 — the target many experts now anticipate — is still record-breaking speed.

Right now there are more than 100 COVID-19 vaccine candidates in development globally, including some already in human clinical trials.

This month, U.S. biotech firm Moderna announced potentially promising results from an initial study involving eight people, although full details are pending.

Researchers at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston recently published early results from a prototype vaccine which effectively protected monkeys from the virus once exposed.

England’s Oxford University has scheduled tests for 6,000 people this summer. Six rhesus monkeys at the National Institutes of Health’s Rocky Mountain Laboratory in Montana got single doses of the Oxford vaccine, still healthy a month after being exposed to the virus.

While monkey-immunity is no guarantee of human protection, their similarities to our physiology is why they’re used in clinical trials. A similar Chinese trial by SinoVac, whose efforts started early in 2020, is also underway.

Even if these and other studies fail in creating a useful vaccine, their results will help make other efforts more successful. Science builds on itself, each step getting closer to the goal.

And masks? As liberating as this gradual return to “normal” feels, we’re not there just yet. The CDC and its counterparts across the globe continue to recommend masks where people can’t maintain distance, as this virus has been shown to spread unaware by infected people without symptoms. Wearing masks — as well as frequent handwashing and social distancing — protects others who may have immunocompromised people in their households, such as cancer patients or the elderly.

“The level of our success is limited only by our imagination and no act of kindness, however small, is ever wasted.” — Aesop

•••

Sholeh Patrick is a columnist for the Hagadone News Network. Contact her at Sholeh@cdapress.com.