Anti-vaxxers aiming to take chances with virus

The availability of a vaccine for the novel coronavirus will likely play a key role in determining when Americans can return to life as usual. Dr. Anthony Fauci, head of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, on April 30 announced a vaccine could even be available as early as January 2021.

Whether a vaccine can end this pandemic successfully, however, depends on more than its effectiveness at providing immunity against the virus, or how quickly it can be produced, distributed and administered in mass quantities. Americans must also agree to be vaccinated.

An estimated 50% to 70% of Americans would need to develop immunity to COVID-19 – either naturally, or via a vaccine — in order to thwart the spread of the virus. So nearly twice as many Americans would need to be vaccinated against COVID-19 than are currently being vaccinated against the flu, as just 37% did so in the unusually severe flu season of 2017-18.

Complicating the equation are people who hold skeptical views about vaccine safety — sometimes referred to as “anti-vaxxers.”

An estimated 20% to 40% of Americans harbor reservations about vaccine safety. If they rejected COVID-19 vaccination, it could jeopardize the recovery process.

Prominent anti-vaccine websites have already begun circulating misinformation, including allegations a vaccine has existed for years but has been kept under wraps. And research suggests anti-vaccination views are tied to deeply held psychological and moral aversions to inoculation, so may be difficult to change.

In a demographically representative survey of 493 adults, conducted on April 15, we asked people holding skeptical views about vaccine safety if they would submit to vaccination against COVID-19. And 62% said they would not.

We believe these findings, although preliminary, suggest people holding anti-vaccine beliefs might jeopardize the effectiveness of a COVID-19 vaccine once it’s available. Furthermore, they suggest anti-vaccine sentiment is at least as widespread as it was before the pandemic began.

From The Conversation, an online repository of lay versions of academic research findings found at https://theconversation.com/us. Used with permission. 



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