Caixin
Sep 10, 2020 05:52 AM
SOCIETY & CULTURE

Global Skepticism May Hurt Effectiveness of Covid-19 Vaccines

A recent survey by the World Economic Forum found that an average 74% of people questioned said they would take a Covid-19 vaccine when available.
A recent survey by the World Economic Forum found that an average 74% of people questioned said they would take a Covid-19 vaccine when available.

As governments and research institutions race to create vaccines against the novel coronavirus, public acceptance of prospective inoculations varies widely among countries, reflecting concerns over potential risks from rushed efforts.

A recent survey by the World Economic Forum found that an average 74% of people questioned between July 24 and Aug. 7 said they would take a Covid-19 vaccine when available. But the difference in confidence levels among countries is significant, ranging from 97% in China to 54% in Russia. The rate in the pandemic hotspot U.S. is 67%.

That 26% of people globally said they were not interested in getting a vaccine “is significant enough to compromise the effectiveness of rolling out a Covid-19 vaccine,” said Arnaud Bernaert, head of shaping the future of health and healthcare at the WEF.

Officials and scientists are counting on effective vaccines to stop the raging pandemic, which has sickened more than 27 million people globally. Some expect the earliest inoculations to be available by year-end.

There are about 200 candidate vaccines are under study worldwide, including nearly 30 entering human trial stages. The final phase of clinic trials has been launched for some experimental inoculations in China, the United States, Russia and the U.K., among others.

But a recent setback involving one of the most promising candidates highlights the potential risks. Britain’s AstraZeneca Tuesday halted late-stage global trials of its coronavirus vaccine after a serious suspected adverse reaction occurred in a participant. AstraZeneca is jointly developing the vaccine with the University of Oxford. Although it is not known whether the reaction was directly caused by the experimental vaccine, the incident raised doubts about the prospects for an early vaccine rollout.

Concerns over side effects and questions on the protective effects of the new vaccines were cited by respondents who said they would refuse to take a potential Covid-19 inoculation, the WEF found after surveyed nearly 20,000 adults in 27 countries.

China recorded the highest potential acceptance rate as 97% of respondents said they would take the injection, although 59% expressed cautious acceptance by saying they would “somewhat agree” to get immunized. Just 38% of Chinese said they “strongly agree” on vaccine inoculation. And 63% of Chinese respondents said they are worried about potential adverse effects while 12% said they don’t think the vaccine will be effective.

Hundreds of thousands of people have already taken an experimental Covid-19 vaccine in China, including people not enrolled in clinical trials, under an emergency-use program launched in July.

People in countries including Brazil, Australia, India, Malaysia, the U.K., South Korea, Saudi Arabia, Peru and Canada expressed high acceptance of potential Covid-19 vaccines, ranging between 88% and 76%.

Russia, Poland and Hungary had the lowest acceptance rates, between 54% and 55%, the survey found.

About 67% of American respondents said they would take the inoculation, while 75% of Japanese, 67% of Germans, 66% of Italians and 59% of French are willing to do so, according to the WEF.

The survey also found that 59% of respondents said they don’t expect a vaccine rollout by the end of 2020. But people in China were most optimistic as 87% said they believe a vaccine will be available by the end of the year.

An average of 56% of respondents said they have concerns about side effects, while 19% said they believe they aren’t exposed to risks of infection. Of those surveyed, 17% said they don’t believe in any vaccines.

Contact reporter Han Wei (weihan@caixin.com) and editor Bob Simison (bobsimison@caixin.com).

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