Americans’ confidence in soon-to-come coronavirus vaccines is back down with less than half of people in the US saying they will get the shot and less than a quarter of black American saying they plan to get vaccinated, a new poll reveals.
According to the latest AP and the NORC Center for Public Affairs Research survey, levels of trust in a vaccine are about the same on the potential eve of one’s approval as they were in May.
Black Americans are particularly wary of the shot, despite the fact that they’ve suffered a disproportionate share of the US’s coronavirus deaths.
A black or Latinx person is nearly three times more likely to die of COVID-19 than a white person, and about four times more likely to be hospitalized for the infection.
A long and dark history of distrust in medicine precedes the current pandemic. US doctors conducted horrific experiments and research on black Americans without their full consent, including the Tuskegee Syphilis experiment, as recently as the 1970s.
But public health officials need to win over the trust of black Americans who are also more likely to work essential jobs and be exposed to coronavirus if 70 to 80 percent of the U.S. needs to be vaccinated to get back to some semblance of ‘normal,’ as Dr Anthony Fauci has suggested.
Black Americans were the least likely to say they will get a COVID-19 vaccine, with just 24% saying they will get a shot. Less than half of all Americans surveyed planned to geta shot
Pfizer expanded its vaccine trial to try to include a more diverse group of participants, but only about nine percent were black, and the vast majority were white. This raises concerns that the risks of the shot in minorities are not well known
The survey from The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research shows about a quarter of U.S. adults aren’t sure if they want to get vaccinated against the coronavirus.
Roughly another quarter say they definitely won’t.
Forty percent of black people said, ‘no, I will not’ get a vaccine, in response to the survey.
Another 36 percent said they were unsure.
So far, 786,227 black Americans have had coronavirus, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), which lags behind the real infection rate.
CDC data also shows 29,347 black Americans have died of coronavirus.
Black Americans are thought to be more at risk of contracting coronavirus in part because they make up an outsized share of the essential work force. They are more likely to have jobs that require them to work on site, and be repeatedly exposed to people who might have coronavirus.
Due to higher rates of poverty and lower rates of insurance, black Americans are more likely to get sicker and potentially die, if they do contract coronavirus.
For these reasons, some public health officials have argued that the U.S. should prioritize vaccinating black and Latinx Americans in the early phases of the shot rollout.
The CDC’s advisory committee has recommended that health care workers and people in long-term care facilities receive the vaccine in the first wave of rollouts.
Advisors to the CDC have suggested that non-health care essential workers and people with underlying health conditions might be among the next waves, but they haven’t formally made that recommendation.
Nor has the group – known as the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) – made a formal recommendation that minority groups who shoulder an outsized burden of COVID-19 be prioritized for vaccination, as some public health experts have suggested.
Vaccinating non-health care essential workers and people with chronic disease would help cover some at-risk black and Latinx people, but will only matter if these people are willing to get the vaccine.
Horace Carpenter of Davenport, Florida, knows that as a black man at age 86, he is vulnerable.
‘I’d like to see it come out first,’ he said of the vaccine. But he said he plans to follow Fauci’s advice.
Moderna tests its COVID vaccine on kids as young as 12 – and says it will know if it’s effective by spring 2021
So far, most black Americans are not positive they will get vaccinated.
Only about 3 in 10 Americans say they feel very or extremely confident that the COVID-19 vaccines will be properly tested, though a majority are at least somewhat confident
‘There are several reasons, including historical and structural racism,’ Dr Peter Hotz, Dean of Baylor College of Medicine’s National School of Tropical Medicine, and vaccine advocate, told DailyMail.com.
‘But another piece may be targeting of African American communities by the anti-vaccine lobby. I don’t have a sense of how much of a factor this really is, but…it’s something that needs to be clarified and investigated.’
He points to several events hosted by notable anti-vaccine or vaccine skeptical figures, including Robert F Kennedy Jr., in recent years in historically black neighborhoods, like Harlem in New York City.
In addition to the grim history of medical experiments conducted on black Americans, more modern medical trials often fail to recruit enough black and Latinx people to thoroughly ensure products are safe for these groups.
Pfizer and partner BioNTech expanded their trials in an effort to be more inclusive, but even with that expansion, only 9.2 percent of the trial participants were black or African American.
FDA regulators will likely require Pfizer’s trials to continue after authorizing the vaccine, with the goal of getting more data on how the shot works in minority populations.
Many on the fence have safety concerns and want to watch how the initial rollout fares – skepticism that could hinder the campaign against the scourge that has killed nearly 290,000 Americans.
Experts – including Dr Fauci – estimate at least 70 percent of the U.S. population needs to be vaccinated to achieve herd immunity, or the point at which enough people are protected that the virus can be held in check.
‘Trepidation is a good word. I have a little bit of trepidation towards it,’ said Kevin Buck, a 53-year-old former Marine from Eureka, California.
Buck said he and his family will probably get vaccinated eventually, if initial shots go well.
‘It seems like a little rushed, but I know there was absolutely a reason to rush it,’ he said of the vaccine, which was developed with remarkable speed, less than a year after the virus was identified.
‘I think a lot of people are not sure what to believe, and I’m one of them.’
Amid a frightening surge in COVID-19 that promises a bleak winter across the country, the challenge for health authorities is to figure out what it will take to make people trust the shots that Dr. Anthony Fauci, the top U.S. infectious-disease expert, calls the light at the end of the tunnel.
‘If Dr Fauci says it’s good, I will do it,’ said Mary Lang, 71, of Fremont, California. She added: ‘Hopefully if enough of us get the vaccine, we can make this virus go away.’
Early data suggests the two U.S. frontrunners – one vaccine made by Pfizer and BioNTech and another by Moderna and the National Institutes of Health – offer strong protection.
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is poring over study results to be sure the shots are safe before deciding in the coming days whether to allow mass vaccinations, as Britain began doing with Pfizer’s shots on Tuesday.
Despite the hopeful news, feelings haven’t changed much from an AP-NORC poll in May, before it was clear a vaccine would pan out.
In the survey of 1,117 American adults conducted December 3-7, about three in 10 said they are very or extremely confident that the first available vaccines will have been properly tested for safety and effectiveness. About an equal number said they are not confident. The rest fell somewhere in the middle.
Experts have stressed that no corners were cut during development of the vaccine, attributing the speedy work to billions in government funding and more than a decade of behind-the-scenes research.
Among those who don’t want to get vaccinated, about three in 10 said they aren’t concerned about getting seriously ill from the coronavirus, and around a quarter said the outbreak isn’t as serious as some people say.
About 7 in 10 of those who said they won’t get vaccinated are concerned about side effects.
Pfizer and Moderna say testing has uncovered no serious ones so far. As with many vaccines, recipients may experience fever, fatigue or sore arms from the injection, signs the immune system is revving up.
But other risks might not crop up until vaccines are more widely used. British health authorities are examining two possible allergic reactions on the first day the country began mass vaccinations with the Pfizer shot.
Among Americans who won’t get vaccinated, the poll found 43 percent are concerned the vaccine itself could infect them – something that’s scientifically impossible, since the shots don’t contain any virus.
Protecting their family, their community and their own health are chief drivers for people who want the vaccine. Roughly three-quarters said life won´t go back to normal until enough of the country is vaccinated.
‘Even if it helps a little bit, I’d take it,’ said Ralph Martinez, 67, who manages a grocery store in Dallas. ‘I honestly think they wouldn’t put something out there that would hurt us.’
Over the summer, about a third of Martinez´s employees were out with COVID-19. He wears a mask daily but worries about the constant public contact and is concerned that his 87-year-old mother is similarly exposed running her business.
Health experts say it is not surprising that people have doubts because it will take time for the vaccines’ study results to become widely known.
‘Sometimes you have to ask people more than once,’ said John Grabenstein of the Immunization Action Coalition, a retired Army colonel who directed the Defense Department’s immunization program.
He said many eventually will decide it’s ‘far, far better to take this vaccine than run the risk of coronavirus infection.’
Adding to the challenge are political divisions that have hamstrung public health efforts to curtail the outbreak.
The poll found six in 10 Democrats said they will get vaccinated compared with four in 10 Republicans; about a third of Republicans said they won´t.
Only about one in five Americans are very or extremely confident that vaccines will be safely and quickly distributed, or fairly distributed, though majorities are at least somewhat confident.
Nancy Nolan, 64, teaches English as a second language at a New Jersey community college and has seen the difficulty her students face in getting coronavirus testing and care.
‘I don´t think it´ll be fairly distributed,’ she said.
‘I hope I’m wrong.’
She raised concerns, too, over the speed with which the vaccine was developed: ‘If I rush, I could have a car accident, I could make a mistake.’
Health workers and nursing home residents are set to be first in line for the scarce initial doses.
Plans call for other essential workers and people over 65 or at increased risk because of other health problems to follow, before enough vaccine arrives for everyone, probably in the spring.
The poll found majorities of Americans agree with that priority list. And 59% think vaccinating teachers should be a high priority, too. Most also agree with higher priority for hard-hit communities of color and people in crowded living conditions such as homeless shelters and college dorms.
‘Once those individuals are cared for, I wouldn’t hesitate to get the vaccine if it was available for me,’ said Richard Martinez, 35, a psychologist in Austin, Texas, who nonetheless understands some of the public skepticism.
‘I think it’d be naïve to think that resources wouldn’t get someone to the front of the line,’ he said.