Story at a glance
- In an interview, Peter Hotez says that in order to see herd immunity, the majority of the population needs to receive a COVID-19 vaccine.
- He notes that this will require “dismantling” anti-vaccine and anti-science rhetoric.
Multiple facets of the COVID-19 pandemic have been politicized, including the development and timing of a safe COVID-19 vaccine.
Although data suggests a slight majority of Americans would get a vaccine should it become available, a notable portion of the population remains skeptical of the safety of a vaccine.
One expert hopes to sway the public to regard the forthcoming vaccine more positively. Speaking to NPR, Peter Hotez, the co-director of the Center for Vaccine Development at Texas Children's Hospital, says that as a vaccine is delegated across select demographics around December, more people could receive doses shortly after.
"By the early part of next year, we're going to move pretty quickly, I think, in vaccinating a significant percentage of the [U.S.] population," Hotez said.
Hotez is working on vaccine development and engaged in public health messaging promoting vaccination in the face of the anti-vaccination movement.
He noted that all of the vaccines showing promising efficacy results — from companies Moderna, AstraZeneca and Pfizer — work the same way: by neutralizing the COVID-19 spike protein detected in the body. Because they essentially work the same, any available vaccine is a viable option for immunity.
"Don't overthink it. Don't wait. Get what vaccine you can,” he said.
A major benefit of the vast majority of the population receiving a vaccine is cultivating herd immunity. To reach a high level of community immunity, Hotez calls for robust public health messaging communicating the safety of the vaccines.
“If we're going to really achieve that 70% herd immunity, which is what our estimates that we came up with...we need to figure out ways to better communicate about vaccines and the importance of vaccines and really start doing something about this very aggressive anti-vaccine movement that's now morphed into a wide-scale, anti-science machine or empire or confederacy that really dominates the Internet and dominates our American life right now.”
With years of experience around the anti-vaccination movement, Hotez notes that it is difficult to slow the momentum of the group. A breeding ground for the movement is headquartered online, where Hotez estimates that more than 480 fake anti-vaccine sites are active across social media.
Eventually, this group adopted familiar anti-COVID-19 health protocol stances, especially resisting the usage of face masks in public.
“[We] have to figure out a way to confront this. It's not enough just to fine tune our message or promote pro-vaccine messages,” he said.
Until then, Hotez advocates wearing masks and having a small-scale Thanksgiving gathering.
"Don't be lax with it [public health protocols] now, especially with the holidays," he says. "It's especially tragic if one of - your loved one loses their life or has permanent, long-lasting injury during this period because it's just a matter of staying disciplined for the next couple of months and getting them to the other side.”