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Only half of American adults want pending COVID-19 vaccine, poll finds

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WASHINGTON — As states frantically prepare to begin months of vaccinations that could end the pandemic, a new poll finds only about half of Americans are ready to roll up their sleeves when their turn comes.

The survey from The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research shows about a quarter of U.S. adults aren’t sure if they want to get vaccinated against the coronavirus. Roughly another quarter say they won’t.

Many on the fence have safety concerns and want to watch how the initial rollout fares — skepticism that could hinder the campaign against the scourge that has killed nearly 290,000 Americans. Experts estimate at least 70% of the U.S. population needs to be vaccinated to achieve herd immunity, or the point at which enough people are protected that the virus can be held in check.

“Trepidation is a good word. I have a little bit of trepidation towards it,” said Kevin Buck, a 53-year-old former Marine from Eureka, California.

Buck said he and his family will probably get vaccinated eventually, if initial shots go well. 

“It seems like a little rushed, but I know there was absolutely a reason to rush it,” he said of the vaccine, which was developed with remarkable speed, less than a year after the virus was identified. “I think a lot of people are not sure what to believe, and I’m one of them.”

Amid a frightening surge in COVID-19 that promises a bleak winter across the country, the challenge for health authorities is to figure out what it will take to make people trust the shots that Dr. Anthony Fauci, the top U.S. infectious-disease expert, calls the light at the end of the tunnel.

“If Dr. Fauci says it’s good, I will do it,” said Mary Lang, 71, of Fremont, California. She added: “Hopefully if enough of us get the vaccine, we can make this virus go away.”

Early data suggests the two U.S. frontrunners — one vaccine made by Pfizer and BioNTech and another by Moderna and the National Institutes of Health — offer strong protection. The Food and Drug Administration is poring over study results to be sure the shots are safe before deciding in the coming days whether to allow mass vaccinations, as Britain began doing with Pfizer’s shots on Tuesday.

A new AP-NORC poll finds that men, older adults and white Americans are especially likely to say they plan to get vaccinated against COVID-19
A new AP-NORC poll finds that men, older adults and white Americans are especially likely to say they plan to get vaccinated against COVID-19
AP

Despite the hopeful news, feelings haven’t changed much from an AP-NORC poll in May, before it was clear a vaccine would pan out.

In the survey of 1,117 American adults conducted Dec. 3-7, about 3 in 10 said they are very or extremely confident that the first available vaccines will have been properly tested for safety and effectiveness. About an equal number said they are not confident. The rest fell somewhere in the middle.

Experts have stressed that no corners were cut during development of the vaccine, attributing the speedy work to billions in government funding and more than a decade of behind-the-scenes research.

Among those who don’t want to get vaccinated, about 3 in 10 said they aren’t concerned about getting seriously ill from the coronavirus, and around a quarter said the outbreak isn’t as serious as some people say.

About 7 in 10 of those who said they won’t get vaccinated are concerned about side effects. Pfizer and Moderna say testing has uncovered no serious ones so far. As with many vaccines, recipients may experience fever, fatigue or sore arms from the injection, signs the immune system is revving up.

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