As of early December 2020, two breakthrough mRNA COVID-19 vaccines, the Moderna vaccine and BioNTech/Pfizer vaccine, were officially submitted for FDA approval. With promising study results, including 95% efficacy for both and no major safety concerns, these vaccines should be a stepping stone to slowing and eventually stopping the COVID-19 pandemic.
Now, public-health authorities face two major challenges: distribution and public trust. Of these, establishing trust in a vaccine may pose the greatest threat to a swift halting of the pandemic. In fact, a November 2020 poll by Gallup found that only 58% of American adults were likely or very likely to get vaccinated when it becomes available. Even with a highly effective vaccine, over three quarters of Americans will need to be vaccinated to truly stop the current public-health crisis in the U.S.. With 42% of American adults still resistant to vaccination, challenges remain for public health officials who seek mass public compliance.
According to the same poll by Gallup, most respondents who are hesitant to vaccination note the speed of vaccine creation and safety of the vaccine as primary concerns. In fact, over 60% of Americans who do not want to receive the vaccine cite the accelerated development timeline or undocumented safety fears as their main concern.
Fortunately, these attitudes are changeable by increasing public health information and transparency around clinical study results. While Gallup’s data shows a slim majority of Americans are confident in the vaccine, the poll also demonstrates an increase in vaccine confidence from 50% to 58% between September and November. This indicates that clinical results and consistent science-based informational campaigns can shift attitudes in favor of vaccination. As the distribution of COVID-19 vaccines increases, so should campaigns for widespread confidence in vaccine safety and efficacy, which could ultimately enable a return to normal social activities in the near future.