Promoting any emerging COVID-19 vaccine to a skeptical public could be tough. But a new survey finds vaccine uptake might rise if the shot is promoted by medical experts, not politicians, and if it’s been proven safe and effective through a rigorous approval process. A vaccine shown to be highly effective in clinical trials with lasting protection and rare major side effects will command more public respect, particularly if major public health organizations endorse it, researchers found. There won’t be as many takers for a vaccine that meets minimum FDA requirements, is approved under emergency use protocols, and is endorsed by politicians rather than medical experts, according to findings published in JAMA Network Open. “The rollout of the vaccine and the public health effort to communicate to people the importance of doing this, that it’s safe and effective and trying to encourage people to vaccinate, should really be left to the public health professionals,” said a coauthor. The speed at which the vaccine is being developed and tested could well complicate efforts to have it widely accepted, noted Dr. William Schaffner. “The very name, Operation Warp Speed, works against us,” he said. “The average citizen who hears this thinks that we’re cutting corners, and they want nothing to do with that.” The survey of nearly 2,000 adults asked about factors that could potentially influence vaccine acceptance: effectiveness, how long the protection will last, risk of side effects, the type of approval, where the vaccine is developed, and the endorsements it gets from major figures and institutions. Effectiveness will be the single most important factor in promoting the vaccine, the researchers found. People will be most strongly motivated to take a vaccine that is 70% to 90% effective, as opposed to one that is only 50% effective, the survey results show.
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