So far, most of the conversation about COVID-19 vaccines has focused on the question of whether researchers can develop an effective vaccine in record time.
But maybe we should start asking another question as well: Will enough Americans actually get the vaccine for it to be effective?
“It’s not a vaccine that will save us,” says Harvard Global Health Institute director Ashish Jha. “It’s vaccination.”
For a COVID-19 vaccine to actually stop the pandemic, scientists estimate that at least 60 percent of the population — and probably more like 75 or 80 percent — would need to be vaccinated, a number that depends on many factors, including the efficacy of the vaccine itself and how widely the virus has already spread.
With that in mind, Yahoo News and YouGov have been polling the American people for the past few months: “If and when a coronavirus vaccine becomes available, will you get vaccinated?”
The trend lines have been discouraging.
At first, responses were mostly favorable. In early May, 55 percent of Americans said yes, they would get vaccinated. But that number shrank in each subsequent survey, slipping to 50 percent in late May and 46 percent in early July.
Now the latest Yahoo News/YouGov poll, conducted July 28 to 30, shows that just 42 percent of Americans plan to get vaccinated for COVID-19 — the smallest share to date.
The outlook for universal vaccination is clouded by political considerations from both sides: skepticism about medical authority and expertise on one side (more common among Trump supporters) and suspicions (mostly on the part of Democrats) that the administration is cutting corners on safety to rush a vaccine into production before the election.
Finally! Something both sides can agree on…