Although access to COVID-19 vaccines remains limited, surveys suggest that a portion of Americans want to “wait and see” how vaccines work for other people before getting vaccinated.
But experts say that getting the vaccine as soon as it is available to you will be vital in protecting yourself and others, stopping variants of the virus, and regaining some level of normalcy.
The proportion of people in this “wait and see” category has decreased over time, according to a survey by the Kaiser Family Foundation group of health policy experts, from 39% in December to 31% in January. In February, the most recent survey, stood at 22%. This happened alongside a gradual increase in the proportion of respondents (most recently 55%) who reported that they had received at least one dose or that they would receive the vaccine as soon as possible.
Black adults (34%), young adults ages 18-29 (33%), Hispanic adults (26%), adults without a college degree (25%), and essential non-health workers (25 %) had the highest proportions of respondents in the wait-and-see group.
The most common concerns in the wait-and-see cohort were the potential for serious side effects; the possibility of contracting COVID-19 from the vaccine, which health authorities say cannot happen; the possibility of missing work due to side effects; and the possible need to pay for the vaccine out of pocket, although the vaccines are free. A quarter of viewers said a one-dose vaccine would make them more likely to get the shot.
Susan Lopez, a hospitalist affiliated with Rush University Medical Center in Chicago, says community members have raised questions about waiting to get vaccinated against COVID-19 during each of the 12 vaccine outreach sessions she has held. .
“I get a lot of questions about the long-term effects, like months and years later, especially regarding mRNA vaccines, as they keep hearing their new technology,” Lopez told MarketWatch. Many people are also overwhelmed by the technological logistics of signing up for a vaccination appointment, he added.
Lopez said she tells community members who say they want to hope she is there to give them the information they need to make the best decision for them. But he assures them that no safety steps were missed in the vaccine development process, that all vaccines have been studied, and that researchers will continue to collect safety information.
López emphasized the importance of asking people why they want to wait rather than assume. Health professionals must acknowledge that those feelings are valid, he said, while answering questions and providing information.
About a fifth of those who responded to the latest KFF survey said they would definitely not get vaccinated (15%) or would do so only if necessary (7%). But KFF CEO Drew Altman compared the wait-and-see cohort to “persuasive swing voters.” He reasoned that they should be a key focus in efforts to strengthen confidence in vaccines, “especially in Black and Latino communities where the need to build confidence in vaccines and address information needs and access barriers is most urgent. “.
He also predicted that many can receive their vaccinations after seeing people they know get vaccinated without incident.
“Those whose minds can be changed most easily are in the wait-and-see group, and hopefully all of their minds can be changed,” said David Abramson, associate clinical professor of social and behavioral sciences at the NYU School of Global. Public Health that is investigating vaccine vacillation and was not involved in the KFF investigation.
“If that were the case, we would get closer to 80% [coverage] rate, and that would be great, ”Abramson added. “We would be at the herd immunity rates that we would like to be at.”
The Food and Drug Administration has granted emergency use authorization to the two-dose Pfizer PFE,
and Modern MRNA,
vaccines, as well as Johnson & Johnson JNJ single injection,
As of Thursday afternoon, 64 million people in the US (19.3% of the total population) had received at least one dose of vaccine, and 33.8 million (10.2% of the population) they were fully vaccinated, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
‘In general, I scare them about how bad COVID can be’
What’s the rush to get vaccinated? For starters, the longer you wait, the longer you’re not protected from COVID-19, said Alison Buttenheim, a behavioral epidemiologist at the University of Pennsylvania School of Nursing.
People tend to worry about the safety and effectiveness of vaccines, he added, but many do not adequately weigh the risks of the disease they are trying to prevent. “It’s really easy to just focus on the benefits and the potential harms and risks of the vaccine and just ignore the disease,” he said. “We all underestimate our risk.”
William Parker, an assistant professor of medicine at the University of Chicago with first-hand experience caring for severe COVID-19 patients, says he emphasizes waiting and seeing people who don’t want to end up seeing him in the hospital.
“I usually scare them about how bad COVID can be,” Parker said. “What’s so exciting about vaccines is that they are tremendously effective in preventing these really bad outcomes: hospitalizations and deaths.”
The virus had killed more than 530,000 people in the United States as of Thursday, according to Johns Hopkins University.
A race to ‘starve the host virus’ and avoid variants
The urgency stems from the need to “starve the host virus,” Abramson said. Public health professionals want to reduce the number of people in a community who are potential carriers and transmitters of the virus, he said, so as more and more people get vaccinated, “that will soon start to suppress the population of the virus. virus. itself.”
Health professionals also want to quickly suppress the number of people sick with COVID-19, Abramson added, “and for every day that people wait and do not get vaccinated, it is another day that they have at least the possibility of getting sick. , and in the worst case, be hospitalized and even die. ”
“For me, speed is really the answer here,” he said.
The threat of COVID-19 variants also makes vaccination an urgent target, experts say. The variant first identified in South Africa, for example, is more infectious and appears to make coronavirus vaccines less effective. A senior UK scientist warned last month that the much more infectious variant first identified in the UK may “sweep the world.”
“As the virus has more time and more hosts to interact with, there is a greater chance that additional variants will emerge, or that the variants that are currently circulating will become more entrenched in the population and become a more serious problem.” . Abramson said. “It’s really just a mathematical game of reducing the number of potential hosts.”
López added: “Every opportunity we have to protect people sooner rather than later will be an opportunity to save a life or to save someone from having long-term COVID effects.”
‘A way back to normality’
The CDC said this week that fully vaccinated people can gather indoors and expose themselves with other fully vaccinated people. They can also do this with unvaccinated people from another household, assuming no one in that household is at increased risk for COVID-19.
(Fully vaccinated people – that is, those who received their second or only dose of vaccine at least two weeks prior – should still wear masks and practice physical distancing in public settings, the guidance added.)
The CDC guidance, along with any additional guidance at the state level, will provide “a path back to normalcy” for many people, Abramson said. “The faster people get vaccinated, the faster they can take advantage of changes in distancing protocols, protective measures, etc.,” he said.
“My wife and I are fully vaccinated, [and] one of my colleagues and his wife are fully vaccinated, so we all have dinner together, “added Parker. “That is totally acceptable once you are fully vaccinated.”
And from a herd immunity point of view, Buttenheim said, “the faster we can get to 70% or 80% coverage in the country, the faster we can get our lives back together and, if this is important to you, keep the vulnerable people safe. “
An altruistic reason to get vaccinated as soon as the vaccine is available is to set a visible example for others, especially if you belong to a group that experiences high levels of vaccinations or possible delay in vaccination, Buttenheim added.
“We are really social creatures, and we definitely look around our social environments for clues on what to do,” he said.
Three shots, ‘all great’
Experts have also expressed concern that Americans are rejecting the vaccine that was first offered to them and hoping for a “more effective” option, the result of disparate vaccine efficacy figures that scientists say are not. they should be compared directly.
The mRNA vaccines from Pfizer and Moderna boast an efficacy rate of about 95%, but their trials were conducted before growing concerns about coronavirus variants, against which the viral vector-based vaccine was tested with 66% efficiency from J&J. The J&J global efficacy figure also hides the vaccine’s 72% efficacy in the US and 85% efficacy against severe disease.
While the two mRNA-based vaccines are different from the J&J vaccine in several key ways, all three are effective in preventing serious illness, hospitalization and death – the measures that matter most, according to public health experts.
“The information I give [people] Essentially, no matter what vaccine is received, it is preventing hospitalization and death, so the best one will be the one they can access first, ”said López.
Buttenheim agreed. “We just want people to get the vaccine that is offered to them,” he said. “They are all great.”
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