Dec. 21, 2020 — Increasing numbers of people want the COVID-19 vaccine sooner, a new WebMD poll finds.
A majority — 56% — said they would take one within the next year. That number is also up slightly from September, when 54.6% of people said they would get the vaccine in the first year.
The findings mirror other recent polls that have tracked people’s thoughts about the timing of the vaccine. About 40% of Americans say they plan to take a vaccine as soon as it’s available to them, according to an ABC News/Ipsos poll released on Dec. 14.
Similarly, about 34% of people said they’d take a vaccine “as soon as possible,” according to a Kaiser Family Foundation poll released Tuesday.
“People who may have been taking a ‘wait and see’ approach may be feeling more confident as we hear more about the vaccine’s safety and how it works,” says John Whyte, MD, chief medical officer of WebMD. “After nearly a year, and we finally have some hope for an end to pandemic life.”
The FDA has allowed the use of two COVID-19 vaccines as cases and hospitalizations continue to surge nationwide.
On Friday, the FDA granted an emergency use authorization for Moderna’s COVID vaccine.
Hospitals and state health departments across the country are already receiving the first doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine. Some health care workers and residents of long-term care facilities received immunizations this week. The FDA granted emergency authorization to the Pfizer vaccine Dec. 11.
In the new WebMD poll of 1,785 readers, 12% said they won’t get the vaccine at all, as compared with 12.5% in September and 28% in July. Another 23% of readers are still unsure or don’t know when they’ll get the vaccine. And 8% said they’d wait more than a year.
Public health officials and politicians have begun to encourage Americans to get the vaccine as soon as it’s their turn on the priority list. Former presidents Barack Obama, George W. Bush, and Bill Clinton have said they’ll take the vaccine when it’s their turn, and they may get the immunization in public and on video to boost confidence among Americans.
The Trump administration is also rolling out a $250 million public education campaign to boost confidence in the vaccine. Vaccine hesitancy is one of the biggest concerns in the vaccine rollout process, Moncef Slaoui, PhD, chief medical adviser for Operation Warp Speed, told CBS This Morning.
“I really hope we are going to be able to change that,” he said.
The average person with no underlying conditions should be able to get access to a vaccine by April or May, Slaoui said.
The WebMD poll also showed that people of all ages were more likely to say they’d take a vaccine in the next 3 months once it’s available, though older adults were most likely to say they’d take it sooner. Readers ages 65 and older were the most likely to say they’d like a vaccine sooner, followed by those between ages 55 and 64.
The results varied by gender as well. Women were twice as likely as men to say they’d take a vaccine in the next 90 days, though both men and women were more likely to opt for the next 3 months than any other timeline.
The majority of people — about 70% — will need to take a vaccine for the U.S. to reach herd immunity and bring the pandemic to a halt. Most people in the country should be able to be vaccinated by late spring or early summer, Anthony Fauci, MD, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, told MSNBC this week.
“I believe we can get there by then, so that by the time we get into the fall, we can start approaching some degree of relief, where the level of infection will be so low in society, we can start essentially approaching some form of normality,” he said.
Until then, people will need to follow public health measures to slow the spread of the virus by wearing masks, avoiding crowds, and social distancing, he said.
“A vaccine right now is not a substitute for the normal standard public health measures,” Fauci said. “Only when you get the level of infection in society so low that it’s no longer a public health threat can you then think about the possibility of pulling back on public health measures.”