Many companies and countries are in a race to produce a safe, effective vaccine for the novel coronavirus. But a question remains: Will enough people take it to make a difference? According to a poll released last month, only about one-third of Americans say they’d be very likely to get a vaccine to prevent COVID-19. At the same many of the individuals have said that they would get it if the vaccine were free, and others said they would sign on if there was a second wave of infections. Meanwhile, many Americans are hesitant about a vaccine, and their opinions aren’t set in stone.
Peter Pitts, president and co-founder of the Center for Medicine in the Public Interest, said that “It was all bully pulpit stuff, and that only goes so far.” Dr. Bisola Ojikutu, an infectious disease specialist at Brigham and Women’s and Massachusetts General hospitals in Boston, said People of color often had been treated poorly by the medical establishment, so they have good reason to be distrustful. She also mentioned in her statement that she’s confident in the vaccine development process because of her knowledge of the system and some of the people involved. But others will need to be convinced. “I’m concerned whether or not communities of color are going to take it,” she said.
More studies and research is going on for the development of the vaccine. Still, the vaccine advocates said the administration made a mistake emphasizing speed when it announced federal funding for vaccine development. “This issue of speed is not sitting well within Black communities,” Ojikutu said, suggesting the title “Operation Safe Recovery” instead. And he also mentioned that “Everyone wants a resolution to this devastating pandemic,” “But in communities that have heightened mistrust towards systems, you have to focus on how you will protect them, not on how you will develop something quickly. The piece of this that is so critical is safety.”
The National Institutes of Health’s Dr. Anthony Fauci and other leaders of the government’s vaccine development effort have repeatedly said safety is their top priority. “My concern is that there’s be a great deal of pressure on whoever developed and tested the vaccine to get it out as quickly as possible,” said Jeffrey Freed, a 59-year-old information technology consultant from Charlotte, North Carolina. “If it takes four years to do it right, then that’s what we have to do.”
It’s also crucial to counter misinformation with accurate data about an eventual COVID-19 vaccine. There are so many myths right now “it’s mind-boggling,” said Theresa Horner, chair of the public health department at St. Francis University in Loretto, Pennsylvania.
“Information that can help alleviate that and provide honest answers and truths, it will certainly serve the United States well in trying to eradicate this (virus),” she said.
The bottom line is that the pandemic can’t end without a vaccine that the majority of Americans are willing to take, said Dr. Lindsey Baden, director of infectious disease clinical research at the Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston.