Once a winning COVID-19 vaccine emerges from the dozens in development, the only way it will truly be successful is if enough people get the vaccine to create herd immunity.
Ensuring that success starts now, authors write in a JAMA Viewpoint essay, “Planning for a COVID-19 Vaccination Program.”
The health care system must deliver the vaccine to the public as soon as rigorous testing is completed and the efficacy and safety are established. Patients at the highest risk for complications and disease transmission to others must get the vaccine first if the initial supply doesn’t meet demand, the authors wrote.
However, first, it is imperative today to start combating vaccine hesitancy—concerns about vaccine safety, choice and the very need for vaccination. The authors cautioned that vaccine hesitancy may be a major barrier to people getting the vaccine and creating herd immunity.
“The mere availability of a vaccine is insufficient to guarantee broad immunological protection; the vaccine must also be acceptable to both the health community and general public,” they wrote. “Depending on varying biological, environmental and sociobehavioral factors, the threshold for COVID-19 herd immunity may be between 55% and 82% of the population.”
With a number of patients unable to get the vaccine because of their age, because they are immunocompromised or have another preexisting medical condition, a vaccine refusal rate greater than 10% could mean the nation doesn’t reach herd immunity, the authors cautioned. They noted that recent surveys suggest only three in four people would get vaccinated if a COVID-19 vaccine were available and that only 30% would want to receive the vaccine soon after it is available.
Most recently, a Pew Research Center survey found that 27% of American adults said they would not opt for a COVID-19 vaccine if it were available today.
The authors—pediatricians Sarah Schaffer DeRoo, MD, MA, and Linda Y. Fu, MD, MS at Children’s National Hospital, and Natalie J. Pudalov, at the George Washington University School of Medicine and Health Sciences—offered three steps physicians and others can take now to ensure more people get the vaccine when it’s available.
Address potential obstacles
Because a vaccine is being developed so quickly and some people mistrust the government’s pandemic response, vaccine safety will be a significant concern for patients.
To combat that, transparency will be key. The public needs to hear about the rigorous testing and ongoing monitoring that the vaccine approval process requires, and educational campaigns should include information on the important role that individual vaccination plays in herd immunity …
Satan has a sense of humor.
When do we get to arrest these charlatans? Will they plead that they were just following orders? Or are they being blackmailed?