As Big Pharma races to develop a COVID-19 vaccine that could save millions of lives globally, nearly 1 in 5 Americans are saying they won’t get vaccinated if and when it arrives.
According to a YouGov-Yahoo News joint poll, only 55% of Americans responded “Yes” when asked whether they would take the critical public safety step. Of the other 45%, 19% responded “No,” and 26% said they weren’t sure.
Given that much of the conversation around coronavirus containment measures (including devastating social distancing guidelines that have torn families apart and disastrous shutdowns that have put 33 million people out of work) is structured around that glorious, pivotal future point at which a vaccine is finally achieved, this news hits like a sack of bricks and has us wondering what we’ve all been doing these past few months. Obviously, vaccines won’t change anything unless people go out and get them.
Nineteen percent of Americans equates to 62 million people. With tens of millions of uninoculated, possible coronavirus carriers freely roaming the U.S.—and beyond its borders, efforts to contain COVID-19 could be completely undermined not just in our country, but in ones more ill-equipped to handle the disease (think Bangladesh, Venezuela, South Sudan).
However, as Yahoo News pointed out, a January Gallup poll showed that 84% of Americans said vaccinating children, in general terms, was “important,” so the number that would get COVID-19 vaccines could increase as vaccine prospects—which are being fast-tracked through a typically multiyear process—are proven safe and effective.
However, the Gallup poll also noted that 84% of Americans is down from 94% of Americans in 2001, illustrating an unsettling trend as the anti-vaxxing movement has gained momentum over the past decade. While some anti-vaxxers have said the coronavirus pandemic caused them to rethink their beliefs, others have been turning up at anti-lockdown protests across the country, spewing freedom-of-choice rhetoric and filling the hallways of Capitol Hill with unvaccinated children. This, despite vast evidence that existing vaccines are safe and save lives.