Since the pandemic began, health experts have heralded future coronavirus vaccines as potential godsends. But skepticism surrounding immunization may prevent some from embracing them.
No matter how foolproof a vaccine is, it won’t properly work if people don’t get it, said Dr. Eric Bing, professor of global health at Southern Methodist University.
“If we don’t have enough people to take these, we’re still all at risk,” he said.
Some are hesitant to try the first iteration of coronavirus vaccine because of how quickly it’s being developed. Others are skeptical because they believe it could create serious side effects. Yet most health experts are urging the public to comply; not only will it protect the individual from serious illness, but society at large.
Monday, the U.S. National Institutes of Health announced a new COVID-19 vaccine has reached Phase 3, the last stage in a clinical trial. Developed by Moderna Inc., the trial will include 30,000 adult volunteers, and experts will test whether the immunization is more effective than a placebo.
Bing said that if it’s approved, every person who is able should sign up for the vaccine. He certainly will.
“Not only would it reduce my risk [of contracting COVID-19], but it would also reduce the risk of me giving it to somebody else,” Bing said.
Dr. Philip Huang, director of Dallas County Health and Human Services, said he’d also take an efficacious vaccine — as long as no corners were cut in the manufacturing process.
“I would absolutely get it when it becomes available and recommended for me to get it,” Huang said.
Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top infectious disease expert, said a vaccine could be ready to roll out by the beginning of next year, according to CBS News. Much is at stake, however: If the coronavirus vaccine fails, it could have serious ramifications for Americans’ trust in immunization.
A new CBS poll shows that 70% of Americans would wait a year to take a coronavirus vaccine, or refuse it entirely. Meanwhile, a Pew Research Center study found that only around half of Black adults, who are at a high risk of serious COVID-related illness, reported they’d sign up.
There aren’t any federal laws mandating vaccination in the U.S.; instead, each state usually decides for itself. Texas allows parents to skip immunizing their children for “reasons of conscience” such as religious beliefs, according to Texas Health and Human Services.
It’s unclear whether Gov. Greg Abbott will mandate a coronavirus vaccination once it is developed.
Still, everyone who is able to take a vaccine should, Bing said. Refusing to will endanger those in the community who cannot, such as people who are allergic to it or immunocompromised.
“If we don't get vaccinated,” he said, “everybody who is vulnerable will remain very vulnerable because the virus will still be out there.”
Even before the coronavirus pandemic, many Americans had chosen to skip standard vaccines. The American Academy of Family Physicians reported that more than half of Americans did not get a flu shot for the 2019-20 season. Another, smaller subset of people believes that some vaccines cause autism, despite a lack of evidence.
Meanwhile, coronavirus conspiracies abound: More than a third of Americans, 36%, believe the pandemic was planned by people in power, according to the Pew Research Center.
That’s not just confined to this country. A poll by research company Essential Research found that 1 in 8 Australians believe billionaire Bill Gates planned the pandemic to implant tracking chips in people via COVID-19 vaccines.
Gates has refuted that accusation.
“We’re in a crazy situation, so there’s going to be crazy rumors,” he said during an interview with China Global Television Network.
There will always be outliers who reject vaccinations, but Huang said that he believes most people will sign up for immunization. Polio was eliminated that way, he said, so the same could be true for COVID-19 someday.
The coronavirus vaccine may not be widely available at first, he said, and could be reserved for those in high-risk categories. That may even cause people to clamor to get it, he added.
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Monday, Dallas County’s health department reported an additional 426 coronavirus cases. Those numbers are much lower than previous weeks, which could be in part attributed to a glitch in the state’s reporting system. Still, Huang said it also indicates that masks and social distancing work to slow the spread of coronavirus.
Vaccine or not, Huang said people should continue practicing those safety measures. They’re integral in flattening the curve of new coronavirus infections, so people should not let up, he added.
Once a sound vaccine is developed, Huang said people should take it because it would be in the community’s best interest.
“Vaccines are true public health success stories,” he said. “It’s sort of like wearing a mask: If everyone does it, then we protect each other.”