Study Says Distrust of Coronavirus Vaccine Could Lead to Insufficient Protection of Public

Credit: Retha Ferguson / Creative Commons

A new study released on Wednesday confirms the fears of many that the rampant mistrust of a coronavirus vaccine, and conspiracy theories which continue to swirl though social media, may end up costing the general public dearly if an insufficient number of people get vaccinated due to these fears.

This widespread lack of confidence in any vaccine, especially in the United Kingdom and the United States, irrespective of where it is produced, the study says, might lead to these nations not coming up to the threshold necessary to keep the society safe.

The new study, conducted by the London School of Health and Tropical Medicine, looked into the attitudes of 8,000 individuals in the UK and the US regarding a coronavirus vaccine, trying to determine whether or not the necessary 55% of the population would receive the shots necessary to produce herd immunity.

According to the study, fewer than 55% of the public stated that they would “definitely” receive the vaccine.

Heidi Larson, who is also director of the International Vaccine Confidence Plan and who was one of the study leaders, stated in her announcement of the results of the study “Vaccines only work when people get them. Misinformation takes advantage of existing concerns and uncertainty about new COVID-19 vaccines, as well as new platforms used to develop them.”

“This threatens to undermine acceptance levels of the COVID-19 vaccine,” she declared.

The unsettling news comes on the heels of the announcement by the American pharmaceutical giant Pfizer of the 90% effectiveness rate of its coronavirus vaccine, which has been in development since April.

“Light at the End of the Tunnel” With 90% Effective Vaccine

On Monday, Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla announced joyously on Monday that, for the very first time since the outbreak of the pandemic, that there finally was light at the end of the tunnel.

“It is a great day for humanity,” he said, “when you realize your vaccine has 90% effectiveness. That’s overwhelming. You understand that the hopes of billions of people and millions of businesses and hundreds of governments that were felt on our shoulders. Now… I think we can see light at the end of the tunnel.”

The nearly-completed studies show that the coronavirus vaccine developed by US pharmaceutical company Pfizer, in collaboration with German company BioNTech, is 90% effective in protecting against the virus.

This marks a monumental stride in controlling the coronavirus, which has killed over 1.2 million people worldwide and brought the economic and social spheres of entire countries to a standstill.

A 90% efficacy rate for the vaccine is much higher than expected. The US Federal Drug Administration has stated that it would normally have expected 50% efficacy in a vaccine for the virus.

The German and US trials for the vaccine enrolled over 40,000 participants from the US and abroad since they started on June 27, 2020.

The figures were seen as an “important step” in the fight to contain a pandemic that has killed more than a million people.

Yesterday, the US chief infectious disease specialist, Dr. Anthony Fauci, told CNN in an interview that “All Americans will have access to the coronavirus vaccine before the end of April.” The news came as an unexpected welcome point of light on top of Monday’s announcement by Pfizer.

Fauci additionally said that US authorities would begin offering a vaccine by the end of this month, stating that the first to receive it would be health workers. “It is possible, although no final decision has been made, that the health professionals who put themselves at risk to care for others will be the highest priority,” he stated.

The elderly and those who are members of vulnerable groups will then be given the shot, followed by other front-line workers, Fauci added. Only then will the vaccine be made available to the general population, he said estimating that would take place “We will probably say until April, the end of April,.”

In the interview, Fauci expressed concern for those who have expressed a distaste for receiving a coronavirus vaccine, including those in the anti-vaccination movement and others who fear that the vaccine was created too quickly.

Study Participants Deliberately Exposed to Misinformation

For the London-based vaccine attitude study, 3,000 subjects in both the UK and the US were intentionally exposed between June and August to misinformation on social media about the new coronavirus vaccine.

During this same period, 1,000 participants in each country had access to valid information regarding potential vaccines.

Perhaps most interestingly, the study showed that, before they were exposed to the incorrect information, 54% of the UK residents and 41.2% of American subjects told researchers that they would definitely get the vaccine.

However, after being exposed to the deliberate misinformation, this number decreased by 6.4% in the British cohort and by 2.4% in the United States group.

The study also found that in both countries, “citizens who do not have a university degree, those who belong to low-income groups and those who are not white are more likely to reject the vaccine.”

In an odd twist, it was also brought to light that females were more likely to reject the vaccine than were males, but a majority of subjects in both countries stated that they would accept it when they were told that it meant protecting family, friends and vulnerable groups in society.