Story at a glance

  • Data from Morning Consult reveal only about half of Americans would take a COVID-19 vaccination.
  • Experts say consistent public messaging regarding the pandemic is needed.

As the race to get a COVID-19 vaccination to market is heating up, public sentiment surrounding the vaccine is conversely cooling down. New data from Morning Consult suggests that only 51 percent of the U.S. population would receive a COVID-19 vaccine if one became available — a sizable decline from the 72 percent of Americans who said they would take a dose of a future vaccine back in April. 

The latest statistic was taken from a poll conducted from Sept. 2-6, and saw double-digit declines across most demographics, including women, men, Democrats, Republicans, Independents, urbanites, suburbanites and rural residents. 

The public sentiment surrounding a vaccine has steadily declined since March, when Morning Consult researchers began tracking opinions regarding a treatment.


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“Over the past month alone — a period in which President Donald Trump has repeatedly promised a vaccine will be delivered by the end of 2020 and possibly before the Nov. 3 election —  the share of adults who say they would get vaccinated has fallen 8 points after public opinion on the matter generally remained steady over the summer,” researchers wrote.

A critical component of ensuring high immunity levels involves boosting public confidence in a vaccine, experts say, which largely comes down to consistent public messaging. Anthony Fauci, the top adviser on the White House Coronavirus Task Force, previously said that public awareness campaigns need to be relatable on a community level to inspire trust in a potential drug.

Bruce Gellin, the president of global immunization at the Sabin Vaccine Institute and the former director of the National Vaccine Program Office at the Department of Health and Human Services, told Morning Consult that the polling indications don’t necessarily predict people’s actions.

Gellin did note that the data does suggest “an urgent need” to understand why people are not confident in a COVID-19 vaccine to improve outreach materials. 


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The conflicting situational reports between Trump and health officials like Fauci have also confused the public, experts say, and may contribute to reticence surrounding a vaccine.

“There’s been a lot of anti-science, anti-public health framing of the pandemic in recent times because of the duress,” Monica Schoch-Spana, a medical anthropologist and senior scholar with the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security, told researchers.

To help assuage public concerns of an unsafe vaccine rushed to market by political pressure, leading pharmaceutical manufacturers like Moderna, AstraZeneca and Pfizer all signed a joint letter promising the public that they would not shortcut clinical trials to push a vaccine forward.

This type of transparency is encouraging, according to Gellin, who also cites the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s process in considering vaccines as an instance of consistent messaging.


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Published on Sep 17, 2020