Fewer Americans say they would take a COVID-19 vaccine compared to four months ago

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Confidence in potential COVID-19 vaccines is slipping, with only 51 percent of Americans in a new poll saying they would get a vaccine if it was available today, compared to 72 percent who said the same four months ago.

The roughly half of Americans who said they’d get a vaccine includes 21 percent who said they would “definitely” get one, compared to 42 percent that said the same in May, according to a poll from the Pew Research Center.

The percentage of people who said they would “probably” get the vaccine remained at 30 percent from May to September.

No COVID-19 vaccine has been approved yet. But hesitancy surrounding a potential vaccine has been growing in recent months among members of both parties, the poll shows.

Forty-four percent of Republicans — and 58 percent of Democrats — said they would get a vaccine if it were available today, a drop of nearly 20 percent from May for both parties.

Most Americans surveyed said they thought it was likely a vaccine would be approved before it is proven to be safe and effective and that they’re concerned with the process moving too fast.

Public health experts and Democrats have worried about political interference from President Trump in the vaccine approval process.

Trump has repeatedly said a vaccine could be approved in the coming weeks, before the election, although Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top infectious diseases expert, has said that is unlikely.

Top health officials tried to reassure Congress during a hearing last week that a vaccine would only be approved if it were deemed safe and effective.

“Science and science alone will be the way in which this decision is made, otherwise I’ll have no part in it,” Francis Collins, director of the National Institutes of Health, told members of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee.

Collins said he is “cautiously optimistic” a vaccine could be approved by the end of the year.

In an effort to shore up public confidence, nine drug manufacturers working on potential COVID-19 vaccines released a rare joint statement earlier this month pledging to only ask the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to approve vaccines that rigorous trials show are safe and effective.

Concerns about political influence in the vaccine approval process follow the FDA’s decisions to approve emergency use authorizations for two potential COVID-19 drugs despite limited data showing their effectiveness.

The FDA initially approved the emergency use of hydroxychloroquine — an antimalarial drug touted by Trump and his allies — as a potential COVID-19 treatment, before pulling it after studies showed it was ineffective and might cause harm in some patients. 

The FDA later issued an emergency approval for convalescent plasma as a COVID-19 treatment, even though Collins and Fauci warned there was not enough data showing its effectiveness.

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