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Health Team

A coronavirus vaccine has been approved. But how many people will actually get it?

Posted December 12, 2020 7:14 p.m. EST
Updated December 13, 2020 9:10 a.m. EST

Pfizer's coronavirus vaccine has now been authorized for emergency use by the Food and Drug Administration. Now, the race is on to get the vaccine to people across the country.

States could receive a Pfizer vaccine as early as Monday, US officials said on Saturday. State and local officials said that the vaccine could be distributed widely as early as spring of next year.

But according to a new poll released by AP-NORC, only about half of Americans are ready to roll up their sleeves when their turn comes. Infectious disease expert Dr. Anthony Fauci said that for herd immunity to be achieved, about 75 to 80% of people need to be vaccinated, but polling shows public trust in a vaccine is below that line.

Pfizer's vaccine was produced and approved in record time, which has inflamed public mistrust surrounding vaccines. The only way the vaccine will be effective and useful is if everyone will take it, experts say.

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.

Rachel Roper, associate professor of Microbiology and Immunology at East Carolina's Body School of Medicine was on a team working to accelerate a vaccine for the SARS virus. She said will "definitely" take a coronavirus vaccine, once it is made available to her.

"This was based on decades of research and knowledge that we already have, so it's not a rush job," Roper said.

Roper said if trusted leaders and celebrities are seen taking the vaccine, it could bolster confidence. Among Americans who won’t get vaccinated, the poll found 43% are concerned the vaccine itself could infect them — something that’s scientifically impossible, since the shots don’t contain any virus.

"As more and more people get it, and show that it is safe, I think people will come around," Roper said.

Fauci told the New York Times he plans to "get vaccinated publicly, in the public space, so that people can see me getting vaccinated,” as soon as “the vaccine becomes available to me.”

President-elect Joe Biden said on Friday that the American public should have confidence in a coronavirus vaccine that may soon begin to become available.

Arguing that “there is no political influence” in the vaccine, Biden stressed the scientific research that has “led us to this point.” He also reiterated his “bold and doable” commitment to trying to vaccinate 100 million Americans in the first 100 days of his administration.

Of the virus, Biden said, “We can wish this away, but we need to face it.”

Among those who don’t want to get vaccinated, about 3 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. Roper said that the risk of getting coronavirus far outweighs the risk of taking a vaccine.

"Compared to the threat of coronavirus, getting COVID-19, it's a clear win for the vaccine," she said.

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