A recent poll conducted by the Associated Press’s NORC Center for Public Affairs Research found that 20 percent of Americans anticipate that a COVID-19 vaccine will be available to the public before the end of 2020, while 61 percent expect it during 2021. Only 17 percent believe it will take longer than that to develop.1 Significantly, about half of respondents said they either would not get the new coronavirus vaccine or were unsure about whether or not they would take the shot.
The nationwide poll was conducted from May 14-18, 2020 using the AmeriSpeak® Panel, a nationally representative probability-based panel of survey respondents from households across the United States of NORC at the University of Chicago. Online and telephone interviews using landlines and cell phones were conducted with 1,056 adults.2
Half of U.S. Poll Respondents Will Decline COVID-19 Vaccine or are Unsure if They Want It
When respondents were asked whether they would get a coronavirus vaccine should one become available on the market, 49 percent of respondents said they planned to get vaccinated, 20 percent said they would not get vaccinated and 31 percent were not sure if they would get vaccinated.3
The poll showed that those who are planning to get the vaccine are doing so primarily to protect themselves and their families from the virus. Many respondents also said they want to protect their community and believe mass vaccination is necessary for life to go “back to normal.”4
The poll found 67 percent of people 60 and older are planning to get vaccinated, compared with 40 percent of younger Americans. Those with someone in their household who is immune-compromised were also more inclined to say they would get the vaccination once it is licensed.5
Concerns About COVID-19 Vaccine Safety
For 20 percent of Americans polled who said they will decline to get the COVID-19 vaccine, about 70 percent cited concern about the vaccine’s potential side effects and safety.
Among reasons given for not wanting to get a new COVID-19 were concerns about:
- getting infected with the new coronavirus by taking the vaccine (42 percent);
- becoming seriously ill from the vaccine (31 percent);
- the vaccine failing to be effective (30 percent); and
- the belief that the virus is not as serious as some say it is (24 percent).6
In response to the poll, Francis Collins, MD, PhD, director at the National Institutes of Health said that, “I would not want people to think that we’re cutting corners because that would be a big mistake. I think this is an effort to try to achieve efficiencies, but not to sacrifice rigor.”7
Fast-Tracking COVID-19 Vaccines
American biotechnology company Moderna, Inc., which is leading the race to be the first company to get a COVID-19 vaccine licensed, is developing a messenger RNA (mRNA) coronavirus vaccine in partnership with National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID). The FDA gave Moderna approval to begin clinical trials on human subjects in March 2020, by-passing laboratory animal studies, which is typically the first step when testing vaccine safety.8
Tal Zaks, MD, chief medical officer at Moderna stated that, “I don’t think proving this in an animal model is on the critical path to getting this to a clinical trial,”9
Messenger RNA vaccines, which have never been licensed for use in humans, inject cells with mRNA, usually within lipid nanoparticles, to stimulate cells in the body to become manufacturers of viral proteins.10 According to researchers at University of Pennsylvania and Duke University, mRNA vaccines have potential safety issues, including local and systemic inflammation and stimulation of auto-reactive antibodies and autoimmunity, as well as development of edema (swelling) and blood clots.11
1 Associated Press – NORC Center for Public Affairs Research. Expectations for a COVID-19 Vaccine. Apnorc.org.
7 CBS News. Only half of Americans would get a COVID-19 vaccine, poll shows. May. 27, 2020.
8 Boodman E. Researchers rush to test coronavirus vaccine in people without knowing how well it works in animals. STAT Mar. 11, 2020.
10 Horizon Magazine. Five things you need to know about mRNA vaccines. Apr. 1, 2020.
11 Pardi N, Hogan MJ, et al. mRNA vaccines – a new era in vaccinology. Nature Reviews Drug Discovery 2018; 17: 261-279.