Despite the current spike in COVID-19 infections and deaths, there is good news for the future. Three effective vaccines are in the pipeline.
When vaccines become more available, will you be among those who get the shots? A large share of the general public won’t say yes, at least not yet.
A late-November survey by the Pew Research Center, 29% of Americans said they would get vaccinated if the vaccine is available.
Another 31% said they “probably” would. That’s a majority, yes. 39% said they would reject the vaccine. Many wonder whether enough people will receive the vaccination to establish the herd immunity required to get us past the pandemic stage. It is possible these poll respondents aren’t being honest or not realizing how they will feel when the vaccine arrives.
Democrats who don’t trust the Trump administration will be more willing when a different President is in the white house.
Republicans, who did not see the risk of COVID-19, perception could change with the new political climate.
Those worried that vaccine development was rushed during 2020 may get more comfortable with the final product. Millions will receive vaccinations with few or no side-effects by then. That will be reassuring. If we want to return to our normal economy, communities and households, we can’t assume that vaccination rates will be high.
Our leaders need a well-planned, sustained campaign to respond to the concerns of fellow citizens that are skeptical.
That’s why three former presidents — Bill Clinton, George W. Bush and Barack Obama — have volunteered to get their shots on television. Hollywood and Madison Avenue are doing their part as well. Different messages for each audience will help to dispel public skepticism.
That skepticism isn’t limited to a single group. For example, the Pew survey revealed that 69% of Democratic-leaning voters said they would definitely or probably get vaccinated, vs. 50% of Republican-leaning voters. That’s a partisan gap, to be sure. But that still leaves lots of Democrats in the “no” camp.
Indeed, Pew also found that African Americans, who overwhelmingly vote Democratic, are far less likely to say they’ll get the vaccine (42%) than are whites (61%), Hispanics (63%), and Asians (83%).
Widespread vaccination will be necessary to put this public-health crisis behind us. We’ll save businesses, jobs and community institutions that the virus harms.
Even so, I believe neither that we should use force to get everyone their shots nor that such a recourse will be necessary. While the vaccination rate must be high, it need not be 100%. Some have health conditions that could merit special consideration.
But for most other objections, persuasion will be a proper and effective response.