Jan 16, 2021 - Health

Hesitancy lingers around the COVID vaccine

Picture of a man in Nevada receives a COVID-19 vaccine shot
A man in Nevada receives a COVID-19 vaccine shot on Jan. 14. Photo: Ethan Miller/Getty Images

Even as government websites crash under the pressure of demand for the COVID-19 vaccine, surveys show many Americans — including health care workers — still have their doubts.

Why it matters: Unless lingering skepticism about the COVID-19 vaccine is dispelled, achieving herd immunity will be a challenge — even with improved distribution.

By the numbers: In the first survey exclusively focused on vaccine hesitancy among U.S. health professionals, Surgo Ventures reported on Friday it polled 2,500 health care workers and found that of the 53% who had been offered the shot, 15% said they refused to take it.

  • Health care workers at long-term care facilities — home to the populations most vulnerable to COVID-19 — were less likely to say they'd get the vaccine than workers at hospitals.
  • The big picture: An international poll released by Reuters on Friday found less than half of Americans polled said they would definitely be willing to take a COVID-19 vaccine when offered — a much lower percentage than most other countries.

Be smart: It may seem unnecessary to worry about vaccine hesitancy at a moment when the biggest problem seems to be getting shots to the millions of Americans who very much want to get vaccinated.

  • But as much as 80% to 90% of the population may need to achieve immunity through either infection or vaccination to fully curtail the pandemic, which will mean convincing a large proportion of those expressing hesitancy now to get their shots.

Yes, but: The good news is the Reuters poll found even in the U.S., only about a quarter of those polled said they would definitely not get the vaccine, which means a large chunk should be convincible with incentives and better messaging.

  • The bad news is there are active efforts to spread disinformation about the COVID-19 vaccines.
  • On Friday the European Medicines Authority revealed that an ongoing investigation into a cyberattack found evidence that "correspondence has been manipulated by the perpetrators prior to publication in a way which could undermine trust in vaccines."
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