Coronavirus has wreaked havoc on the world and the United States, causing severe illness, hundreds of thousands of deaths, and the loss of simple freedoms. Pharmaceutical companies are racing toward finding a vaccine that will keep people safe from infection. Yet, after months of dealing with the pandemic, a large number of Americans report that they are both unlikely to take a coronavirus vaccine once its available and they definitely don’t think that they should have to pay for it.
According to a new poll conducted by Ipsos and ABC News, the number of Americans that said they are planning on getting the vaccine once it is available has dropped significantly: from 74% in early May, to about 64% as of last week. It appears that Americans are not as trusting of the process, and many feel it’s being rushed.
The Coronavirus-response program has even been named Operation Warp Speed, which may not be helping public perception. National Institutes of Health Director Francis Collins told The Wall Street Journal, “Maybe there’s an aspect of the Warp Speed brand name that isn’t helping here because it sounds as if that might include some cutting of corners that would increase the likelihood that this vaccine isn’t really safe and isn’t really effective.”
What’s the Concern?
Some of the public’s reluctance can be attributed to the current political climate. The race to have a vaccine ready before the November election left many people feeling that vaccine efficacy and safety was not the main motivation.
“As the vaccine becomes more and more politicized, we’re seeing a negativity from both sides of the aisle,” Mallory Newall, Research Director at Ipsos tells Parentology.
Also contributing to the hesitation to vaccinate is the anti-vaccination movement that has become pervasive, especially on social media. The World Health Organization (WHO) lists vaccine hesitancy as a top ten threat to global health. Combine all of these factors and it appears that even if and when a vaccine is available, the US has an uphill battle to get people to take it.
Emily Brunson, a medical anthropologist at Texas State University, co-led a group that published a report on recommendations to address hesitancy for the Center for Health Security at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. As she told The Wall Street Journal, “You could have the best, most perfect vaccine available, but if no one takes it, then it doesn’t matter.”
Cost Also Matters
Even if Americans are willing to take the vaccine, they don’t seem as willing to pay for it. The majority of those surveyed said they would not pay more than $50 dollars for a vaccine, and 1/3 of the participants in the Ipsos poll said they were unwilling to come out of pocket at all to pay for a coronavirus vaccine.
“Americans’ unwillingness to pay out of pocket for the vaccine seems to go hand in hand with this growing skepticism; if they do have to get it, most expect their insurance company or the government to pick up the tab, rather than them have to foot the bill for something they’re uncertain about in the first place,” Newall says.
Finding a vaccine is a challenging process. Based on the current state of public opinion in the US, public health officials may have an even greater challenge on their hands convincing Americans to take it once it’s available.