Some people are leery about a COVID-19 vaccine; a local expert says messaging will be key

Race for the coronavirus vaccine
COVID-19 vaccine trials continue in labs around the world.
COVID-19 vaccine trials continue in labs around the world. (Source: WVUE)

NEW ORLEANS, La. (WVUE) - The government may have to do more work to convince some Americans a COVID-19 vaccine is in their best interest. Getting a vaccine fully tested, approved, and to the market is a top priority for government leaders but a recent Gallup poll found a sizable chunk of the population will be reluctant to get the vaccine once it is available.

When asked if they would get a coronavirus vaccine, 65 percent said yes, and 35 percent said no, according to Gallup.

Dr. Charles Stoecker is a Tulane University health economist who has worked at the Centers for Disease Control and does research on vaccination policy, including looking at how the number of people that take a vaccine translates later to disease prevention.

He said it is important that the public is convinced that a vaccine has been thoroughly developed and tested.

“The proof for whether the vaccine is safe cannot be rushed,” said Stoecker. “So the two most important messages when we’re communicating about a vaccine we think is safe and effective is that that vaccine is safe and effective.”

President Donald Trump said recently that a vaccine could be ready before election day which is November 3.

Stoecker says such messaging could impact some Americans' confidence in the vaccine. “People might have some worries about the safety of it if they think that the trials are rushed, so someone saying that the vaccine will be out by a certain date doesn’t necessarily give people confidence that the rules of the safety of the trial are being respected,” he said.

U.S. Sen. Bill Cassidy of Louisiana is also a physician and has done vaccine-related work in the past.

“I’m not sure that there’s going to be a vaccine ready by election day, it’s possible but it seems less likely,” said Cassidy.

He said this week the head of the NIH along with the U.S. Surgeon General assured members of Congress that no vaccine would come to market unless it is safe and effective.

“Now, I can also say when people ask well how can you develop it so quickly? Normally, I used to do research on developing vaccines, and normally when you develop a vaccine there is a lot of, I don’t want to say dead time, but months spent analyzing data before you go to the next stage. That’s being compressed, the study is being done and the data analyzed real-time,” said Cassidy.

The number of people who get vaccines can affect the broader community, in terms of immunity experts say.

“We rely on the FDA to certify that these vaccines are at least 50 percent effective,” said Stoecker.

He was asked whether it is realistic to think that the majority of people who are willing to be vaccinated will be able to access the vaccine early on.

“I think manufacturing is the lesser of the two honestly hard goals but as for how quickly, we can’t really say because really we don’t know when the trials will end, right? So, these trials they enrolled 30,000 plus people and they have to wait until you see a statistical difference between the two arms so that you can show vaccine effectiveness,” said Stoecker.

Some participants in the vaccine trials receive the vaccine and others get the placebo.

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