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Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios

Young, healthy people will be at the back of the line for coronavirus vaccines, and they'll have to maintain their sense of urgency as they wait their turn — otherwise, vaccinations won't be as effective in bringing the pandemic to a close.

The big picture: "It’s great young people are anticipating the vaccine," said Jewel Mullen, associate dean for health equity at Dell Medical School at the University of Texas at Austin. But the prospect of that enthusiasm waning is "a cause for concern," she said.

Where it stands: Right now, young Americans are eager to get vaccinated.

  • 62% of adults 18-44 years old say they would be willing to get a coronavirus vaccine, Gallup polling shows.
  • 75% of students nationwide said they would probably or definitely take an FDA-approved vaccine, according to new polling from Generation Lab.

Yes, but: The most vulnerable people — frontline workers, seniors and people with underlying health problems that can cause severe coronavirus illness — will be the first priority as a limited number of vaccine doses become available.

  • The lowest-risk Americans — generally, people who are young and healthy — may not get access to the vaccine until 2022, the World Health Organization's chief scientist recently predicted.
  • "As more people get vaccinated, young people may think, ‘Oh, other people got it, so I don’t have to worry about it so much," Mullen said.

How it works: The WHO has estimated that roughly 60-70% of the U.S. population would need to get vaccinated in order to achieve herd immunity, the key to stopping the virus from spreading widely.

  • That's only achievable if a lot of low-risk people get vaccinated.

Between the lines: The seasonal flu vaccine is important not just to protect yourself from getting the flu, but to ensure you don't then pass it to someone who's more likely to die from it, including the elderly.

  • But in 2017, only about one-third of 18-49 year-olds received their flu shot.

The bottom line: The first phases of a vaccination campaign will shield the most vulnerable, hopefully causing deaths and serious illnesses to fall significantly.

  • But putting the pandemic behind us will require lower-risk people to stay vigilant even after the tide begins to turn.

Go deeper

Jan 24, 2021 - Health

U.S. surpasses 25 million COVID cases

A mass COVID-19 vaccination site at Dodger Stadium on Jan. 22 in Los Angeles, California. Photo: Mario Tama/Getty Images

The U.S has confirmed more than 25 million coronavirus cases, per Johns Hopkins data updated on Sunday.

The big picture: President Biden has said he expects the country's death toll to exceed 500,000 people by next month, as the rate of deaths due to the virus continues to escalate.

Coronavirus has inflamed global inequality

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

History will likely remember the pandemic as the "first time since records began that inequality rose in virtually every country on earth at the same time." That's the verdict from Oxfam's inequality report covering the year 2020 — a terrible year that hit the poorest, hardest across the planet.

Why it matters: The world's poorest were already in a race against time, facing down an existential risk in the form of global climate change. The coronavirus pandemic could set global poverty reduction back as much as a full decade, according to the World Bank.