NEW YORK (NYTIMES) – In a sign that Americans are becoming less hesitant to take a coronavirus vaccine, a Gallup poll released on Tuesday (Nov 17) showed that 58 per cent of the adults who were surveyed were willing to be vaccinated, up from 50 per cent in September.
The survey was conducted between Oct 19 and Nov 1, as coronavirus cases were surging across the country but before Pfizer and Moderna announced that their vaccines were 90 per cent effective or better against the virus in late-stage trials.
Still, the results were promising for an eventual vaccine rollout, as widespread inoculation against the virus is seen as essential before restrictions can be lifted and life can return to normal, or something close to it.
The survey’s authors cautioned, however, that confidence in a vaccine remained lower than it was earlier in the pandemic. In June, for instance, Gallup reported that 66 per cent of Americans said they would be vaccinated.
While the percentage of American adults who said they would not be vaccinated dropped to 42 per cent from 50 per cent in September, skepticism about a rushed vaccine, among other factors, still presents a significant challenge for officials who will need to convince the public that any approved coronavirus vaccine is safe.
“A longer period of development and clinical testing” may help ameliorate some of the most common reasons for concern, the survey’s authors wrote.
Dr Phoebe Danziger, a pediatrician at the University of Michigan who writes about medicine, ethics and culture, said in an interview that the Gallup data was consistent with what she had observed anecdotally.
“Clearly there’s a lot of hesitation out there, but it seems like there’s a slight shift into a positive view,” she said.
As cases continue to rise across the Midwest, she senses that people across the political spectrum are starting to see that they are “really going to need this to get out of this mess.”
The poll, which reflects an online survey of 2,985 adults, has a margin of error of plus or minus 3 percentage points.
The increased willingness to take a coronavirus vaccine was more pronounced in certain groups, particularly Democrats and Americans between the ages of 45 and 64.
Among Democrats, willingness to take a vaccine rose to 69 per cent last month from 53 per cent in September.
Nearly half of Americans between the ages of 45 and 64 – 49 per cent – said they were willing to take a vaccine, up from 36 per cent in September.
Despite the increase, people in that age group remained least likely to say they would get the vaccine.
Democrats have consistently signalled that they were more likely to get vaccinated than Republicans and Independents, but there were shared concerns in the late stages of the presidential campaign.
A poll released last month by the Kaiser Family Foundation found that a clear majority of Americans were skeptical about a rushed vaccine, with 62 per cent of adults saying they were concerned about the Trump administration pressuring the Food and Drug Administration to approve a coronavirus vaccine before the election.
In September, President-elect Joe Biden said he did not trust President Donald Trump to determine when a vaccine was ready. “Let me be clear: I trust vaccines. I trust scientists,” he said. “But I don’t trust Donald Trump, and at this moment, the American people can’t either.”
Ms Lydia Saad, Gallup’s director of US social research, suggested that coronavirus vaccination had become a more rancorous partisan issue, contributing to a decline in confidence among Democrats.
Their confidence rebounded somewhat in the latest survey, she said, possibly because the political rhetoric had moved away from the issue.
“People went back to their original tendencies,” she said in an interview.
A rushed approval process for a vaccine was a concern for 37 per cent of the adults Gallup polled, while 26 per cent said they would wait for confirmation that a vaccine was safe.
A smaller group – 12 per cent – said they did not trust vaccines in general, reflecting a mistrust of vaccines that has been on the rise across the country in recent years, stemming from the legacy of government experimentation on African-Americans and the disadvantaged as well as distrust of the pharmaceutical industry.
With Pfizer and Moderna’s vaccines both showing early success, Ms Saad said she expected the willingness of Americans to be vaccinated to rise, though she was reluctant to speculate about how quickly.
“I would certainly think there’s more room for Democrats to feel more confident,” she said. “I think Republicans are likely to rally around this vaccine, because it was developed on Trump’s watch. On the other hand, there are pre-Covid attitudes that would make people resistant regardless, so there may be a ceiling for how high support will go.”