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Six in 10 Americans said they are somewhat or very likely to get a Covid-19 vaccine if doing so would lower the risk of becoming infected by about half, according to a new survey from STAT and The Harris Poll. The poll also found that more Americans say they are likely to get a vaccine, practice social distancing, and wear a mask if they or someone they know has contracted Covid-19.

The findings come on the heels of the news that a vaccine developed by Pfizer and BioNTech was strongly effective. An early analysis of results showed that individuals who received two injections three weeks apart experienced more than 90% fewer cases of symptomatic Covid-19 than those who were given a placebo.

The poll, which surveyed 1,954 adults online between Oct. 29-31, suggests that even a less effective vaccine wouldn’t have an outsized impact on the public’s willingness to be immunized. Among those queried, nearly two-thirds reported they would get a vaccine if the shot lowered their risk of contracting the coronavirus by 75%.

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Megan Thielking/STAT Source: STAT/The Harris Poll, Oct. 29-31.

Drill down further, however, and the data shows that only 56% of those between 18 and 34 years old are likely to get vaccinated if a shot would decrease the odds of becoming infected by half. This rose to 64%, though, when a vaccine would reduce the risk of contracting the coronavirus by 75%.

“If we’re actually at 90%, it’s going to reinforce for two-thirds of Americans who are then much more likely to take the vaccine, although I think it’s fair to say that it doesn’t need to be 90% effective to get that pull through,” said Rob Jekielek, managing director of The Harris Poll. “It may not necessarily need to be the 90% that Pfizer is showing in its preliminary results. But the data indicates it will have to be over 50% for the general public and over 75% for that younger generation of Americans.”

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Irrespective of expected efficacy, the likelihood of Black Americans to get inoculated is lower than with other racial and ethnic groups, the poll found. But it is noteworthy that the share of Black Americans who say they’re likely to get a vaccine doesn’t jump at 50% efficacy, which saw a 10% to 15% uptick among other groups. So even with a vaccine that offers very high efficacy, this will be an important challenge for public health experts to overcome.

The responses appear to underscore lingering concerns about a Covid-19 vaccine. For months, the Trump administration — and President Trump, in particular — pushed the idea that a vaccine would arrive this fall, sparking debate that such a development might somehow be timed to offer an advantage in the recent election.

This factored into a larger controversy over the extent to which politics — and not science — guided the Trump administration’s response to the pandemic. At the same time, speculation over a vaccine also fed into ongoing wrangling over the safety of vaccines more broadly, which prompted concerns from public health experts that reluctance among the public to get vaccinated would hamper efforts to stop the spread of Covid-19.

The survey also found that 81% of Americans view the coronavirus as somewhat or serious public health threat. However, the perception of how big a threat Covid-19 poses varied considerably depending upon age. For instance, 76% of those ages 18 to 34 see Covid-19 as a somewhat or very serious public health threat, compared with 87% of those 65 years and older.

Megan Thielking/STAT Source: STAT/The Harris Poll, Oct. 29-31.

Meanwhile, more people are willing to wear masks and practice social distancing if they or someone they know has contracted Covid-19, though the share who said they would adopt such preventive health measures remains relatively low. Among people who had been infected, 62% said they would now wear a mask, compared to 79% of those who had a family member or close friend infected.

On a similar note, just 61% of people who had contracted the virus said they would practice social distancing — staying 6 feet apart from others — after contracting the virus. By comparison, 76% of those who had a close friend or family member become infected and 74% of those with an acquaintance who had Covid-19 said they would do so.

“As people are hearing stories about friends and family or from an acquaintance, it’s shaping their views,” said Jekielek. “So being able to show people the implications on someone’s health is really important.”

Even so, only 54% said they were less likely to attend a large group event after contracting Covid-19, while 71% expressed the same view after a close friend or family member became infected. And 72% reported they were less likely to attend a large group event after learning that an acquaintance caught the virus.

  • maybe I missed your explanation in your data for the group of people you call “after contracting covid”, or those that “had been infected”. This group of people could include those that were infected and recovered. That group might know they no longer are likely to infect others. Either way your are not clear, but might be manipulating the data to tell the story you want.

    • Hi Duane,

      Thanks for your note. And you ask a good question, but the Harris Poll team asked folks who were aware they had been infected. Those who did not recover, well… they are no longer with us.

      I’m sorry you thought this wasn’t clear, but there was no attempt to manipulate anything. We relied on the Harris Poll to survey people and invested time reviewing the results with one of their execs, so we could present an accurate portrayal.

      Hope this helps,
      ed at pharmalot

  • This article presents some very interesting analyses. Unfortunately these underscore the ignorance of a large percentage of Americans. The massive un-will towards really small sacrifices / adjustments that would make a world of difference renders the nation laughable – were it not for the detrimentally disastrous effect on its national health and its prized economy. The non-committed cause a result that is opposite to what they want.

  • If you had covid-19 and you are still alive then there is no point in taking a vaccine. You just got the best (natural) vaccine money cannot buy.

  • More Americans are learning NOT TO TRUST corporate America. They’ve been lied to so often that trust has worn thin.
    As for trust in vaccines, there’s been too many failures, too many reports of people getting sick anyway or FROM the vaccines to ignore. The more vaccine companies deny reports of vaccine-caused illness, the more the distrust grows.

    Americans without college degrees still have EYES that see and COMMON SENSE. We KNOW that corporations often BUY OFF doctors and scientists to promote the corporate viewpoint. People may not read the scientific journals but they will not deny their own friends and families’ instances and reports nationwide of various vaccine-caused illness.

    Until the American people have more say than multinational corporations in how their lives and their country is run, the distrust will continue to grow until corporate America must force compliance or go out of business. We are at the point of mask mandates and forced vaccine compliance for an illness on par with the seasonal Flu. How far will this go?

    America has seen the 2020 presidential election stolen by corrupt politicians with obvious lies and corporations who stand to lose power unless there’s a “regime” change. This is in response to the last paragraph where the author suggests President Trump pushed for a vaccine to gain him points in the election. I found this remark inappropriate, but it goes to illustrate WHY most Americans today do not trust the media or vaccines or ANYONE who promotes ANYTHING that violates COMMON SENSE – like the results of this election until they can be verified.

    INEXPENSIVE and SAFE HYDROXYCHLOROQUINE has been taken off the FDA list of safe drugs by Dr. Fauci after 65 years of exemplary performance. Dr. Fauci has a personal interest in a CV-19 VACCINE (He has patents).
    [Dr. Fauci sent CV-19 to the Wuhan Lab in China to finish experimentation after he was told by the US to SHUT IT DOWN as it was too dangerous.
    Conflicts of interest like this have led to public distrust of America’s corporations, capitalism and America’s political system.

    • good thing you are not: driving a BIG truck made by a corporation, eating fast food made a corporation, filling up your BIG truck with gas provided by a corporation, buying a ton of guns to defend your freedom from a corporation, etc..

    • My father used to say: “Be aware son, there are more horses asses than horses.” Still holds true today.

  • So many incentives could be created to convince people to take the vaccine. Perhaps it would be necessary to travel, perhaps it could lower insurance rates, perhaps it would be necessary to attend large functions. First, of course, there will not be enough vaccine for those who want it. But when enough is ready, and no serious harms have been found, those incentives will capture those who think they will refuse now.

  • Interesting to note that post election research seems to indicate that people are becoming less anxious about COVID even as new cases set records. Americans have become sort of mute when it comes to COVID news.

    While the Pfizer news is hopeful it was, at best, preliminary. More testing is needed and the data needs peer reviews. Hopefully under Biden the FDA and CDC can start the process of rebuilding trust.

    • I believe the polling was done October 29-31, pre-election. The results are just coming out now.
      See above.

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