This latest horrific surge in the COVID-19 pandemic, with the average number of SARS-CoV-2 infection cases setting records across the country with particularly grim numbers from Texas to the Midwest and Intermountain West, now leaves Americans ever more open to embrace the concept of coronavirus vaccination. One of the vaccines developed by Pfizer and BioNTech called BNT162b2 is now under review for emergency use authorization (EUA) by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). The other leading candidate known as mRNA-1273 and developed by Cambridge, MA-based Moderna, should be following the Pfizer vaccine imminently. The BNT162b2 candidate could be approved for EUA as soon as in a couple of weeks. The effective rate figures reported thus far have delighted scientists and the medical community. Pfizer/BioNTech reports a 95 percent effective rate, while Moderna reports an effective rate of 94.5 percent. These unfolding dynamics, in combination with intensified efforts by state and local health agencies, employers and even pharmacy chains in an all-out effort to educate Americans about the importance of the vaccination program, lead now to overall rising American interest in taking a COVID-19 vaccine. However, the apparent politicization of vaccine and therapy development served only to complicate the ongoing effort to combat COVID-19. A stark difference among racial lines exists when it comes to vaccine acceptance, with whites significantly more likely than Blacks to be open to receiving a COVID-19 vaccine. This is despite the fact that Blacks face much greater danger than whites due to a number of factors generally associated with the social determinants of health.
Gallup Poll Numbers Going Up
Just in September, only 50 percent of those surveyed by the Gallup Poll, the prestigious American survey firm, would actually go and get a vaccine. Now, given the factors and forces summarized above, 58 percent of Americans now will plan on getting the vaccine. This is a sizable increase in just a couple of months. Yes, a lot is going on, not to mention a record turnout at the polls for the recent presidential election.
Nonetheless, government agencies, healthcare organizations and employers still face major challenges, as 42 percent of American adults still have no interest in getting vaccinated for COVID-19. One Gallup observation is the interest or acceptance of vaccines along political party lines. For example, 69 percent of those self-identified as Democrat are ready for vaccination, while compared with 53 percent in September—could this huge jump be correlated to the presidential election? There was a growing fear that a vaccine would be rushed out of the R&D labs to the public. This certainly represents the potential damage politicization has done during this pandemic.
Middle-Aged Group Readies
The most recent Gallup poll findings point to an increasingly fearful middle-aged population. In September, only 36 percent of this group would accept a vaccine. Now, 49 percent of them are ready. This group remains the most hesitant still, however, despite the higher risk they face as compared to their younger cohorts.
What about Minority & ‘Underrepresented’ Groups?
Last month, the Harris Poll reported that a majority of Blacks are overall, not in a rush to take get a vaccine jab, despite the fact that they can face more than double the risk of hospitalization and death from the SARS-CoV-2 pathogen.
Speculation for the declining numbers of people that would take the vaccine immediately in the Harris Poll suggested again fear possibly triggered by politicization. To put it all in perspective, while 70 percent of white Americans were open to accepting a vaccine as soon as it was ready in mid-August, that number declined to 59 percent in October. Highlighting the striking differences among Blacks, only 43 percent of African American people would accept a vaccine as soon as possible, which represented a steep decline from 65 percent in mid-August.
NIH Funding Efforts Targeting Health Inequity
TrialSite has been chronicling a burst of National Institutes of Health (NIH) RADx-UP grants to academic medical centers representing an effort to reach out and support underrepresented populations around the country. Although ostensibly focusing on community-based engagement for expanding COVID-19 testing for underserved and/or vulnerable populations (e.g., African American, Hispanic, Native American, lower-income rural, elderly in long-term care, etc.), an underlying theme involves readying vulnerable communities for vaccination programs.