What If Many Americans Say No to a COVID Vaccine?

By Serena McNiff
HealthDay reporter

TUESDAY, August 25, 2020 (HealthDay News) – Scientists around the world are rushing to test and manufacture one or more coronavirus vaccines. But once a vaccine is proven to be safe and effective, a big question remains: How do you get everyone to take it?

Health experts have reason to be concerned.

Less than half of all U.S. adults say they plan to get a COVID-19 vaccine when it becomes available, according to two recent polls from Yahoo News/ YouGov and NBC News/ Survey Monkey. But to end the pandemic, herd immunity is needed – achieved when around 60% to 70% of the population is immune to the virus.

“This will be one of the most crucial parts of the vaccination campaign,” said Dr Amesh Adalja, senior researcher at the Center for Health Security at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore. “We don’t want anyone to cast doubt on the effectiveness of the vaccine – whether it is indeed effective and safe – because that is the only way to really get this virus under control and eliminate it as a threat. that’s all.”

Adalja and Dr. Kelly Moore, associate director of immunization education with the Immunization Action Coalition, are just two of many experts across the country who are currently planning a vaccine to be approved. In a recent HD Live! interview, they discussed reasons why people might be reluctant to get vaccinated, and how health care systems and government can assure people that getting the vaccine is the right choice.

Moore and Adalja have both sought to allay a concern of vaccine skeptics – that a vaccine is rushed and, therefore, will be dangerous. Despite the name given to the government’s vaccination program – Operation Warp Speed ​​- Moore and Adalja insisted that no steps were being missed.

“When we talk about this as Operation Warp Speed, Warp Speed ​​is about getting things through clinical trials and then making them,” Adalja explained. “This is not the clinical trials. It will still take the same time.”

Moore agreed, adding, “We’re not cutting back on the steps that will affect our ability to know it’s safe. We’re not taking shortcuts. We’re just streamlining the process to deliver a safe and effective vaccine to the public as quickly as possible. humanly. possible. “


Even imperfect vaccines save lives

Since no vaccine has yet been proven safe, some of the current skepticism may be resolved once there are more responses. But while clinical trials are still ongoing, questions about the safety and effectiveness of future vaccines are “perfectly normal,” according to Moore.

“The questions are normal and appropriate – even I have questions about how the vaccine works, how many doses I need, and side effects,” she said. “We need to get our questions answered from these ongoing Phase 3 clinical trials.”

Others may want to wait for a “perfect” vaccine – but as Adalja explained, first-generation vaccines are unlikely to be 100% effective, but they can prevent people from getting to the hospital. “We can really come to terms with something that is not the best vaccine, but that is good enough to get us through this acute part of the pandemic,” he said.

If the first vaccine available even has a 50% effectiveness rate, that means someone who receives it will be 50% less likely to catch COVID-19 than someone who has not been vaccinated.

And even though those who get vaccinated with this hypothetical vaccine may still be infected, they will be less likely to need hospitalization or die. “These are still very valuable proposals with the vaccine,” Adalja said. “What it’s mainly about is trying to keep our hospitals and their capacities manageable.”

Once a vaccine is approved, high-risk groups – such as health workers and the elderly – will likely be vaccinated first. Then the general public vaccination effort will begin.

Moore said transparency is key to gaining people’s trust in the vaccine. “It’s our job to communicate with the public – to work with them – being very transparent about how this vaccine works, what we can expect from it and what the side effects are,” she said. “They need to understand whether to expect arm pain or a little fever for a day or two while the vaccine is working, so that they know what is normal and expected.”


Counter anti-vaxxers

At the Immunization Action Coalition, Moore is working with groups that typically administer vaccines – such as clinics and pharmacists – to get them ready when the first COVID-19 vaccine becomes available.

“Our best partners will be the private clinics and pharmacies that administer many seasonal flu shots each year,” Moore said. “We will build on this infrastructure to disseminate this vaccine more widely to the public and make it accessible.”

And the flu season coming this fall might be good practice.

“This fall’s seasonal flu shot programs are the perfect warm-up game for the big game with COVID-19 next year,” Moore said. “For clinics that administer seasonal flu shots, they need to look at how they immunize everyone in their practice. That should be their goal.

Skepticism about vaccines was already a major health problem, but the global pandemic should serve as a rallying cry to fight anti-vaccination sentiments.

“We have to be very proactive in tackling the anti-vaccine messages and the vaccine reluctance messages that are going to be broadcast because they are going to be broadcast in force,” Adalja said. “It will be important that infectious physicians, family physicians and public health advocates really talk about the risks and benefits of this vaccine, that they are very transparent about the data so that we get this high vaccination rate.

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SOURCES: Amesh Adalja, MD, senior researcher, Center for Health Security, Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore; Kelly Moore, MD, MPH, Adjunct Associate Professor, Department of Health Policy, Vanderbilt University School of Medicine, Nashville, Tennessee, and Associate Director, Immunization Education, Immunization Action Coalition

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