No shots, thanks, we’re Americans

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“I would advise you not to take the Russian or the Chinese vaccines,” my GP told me the other day, “I suspect there might have been some shortcuts taken in both cases.” Of which, testing on army conscripts in Russia or political prisoners in China are probably the least consequential.

Whichever COVID vaccine – if there a vaccine – becomes available in Australia, you can be reassured you won’t grow an extra set of breasts or develop colour blindness as side-effects. As a legacy of the thalidomide tragedy the way back, Australia has the most stringent new drug testing regime in the world. It won’t guarantee the long term efficacy and protection by the vaccine or lack of any longer term health consequences, but this won’t worry too much most of my compatriots, who have been going stir-crazy for months now, frequently locked down and consistently denied the opportunity to travel. Some 88 per cent of Australians are willing to get the vaccine (including 59 per cent strongly inclined to do so) – among the highest support in the world, exceeded only by China and Brazil (Ipsos survey for the World Economic Forum in late August). It’s a price of being able to resume normal life again.

The most vaxxo-sceptic nations of the 27 surveyed are Poland, Hungary and Russia – perhaps they are just very sceptical and pessimistic in general; something their modern history arguably predisposes them to be.

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The United States is ranked towards the bottom of the table, though still with two-thirds certain or likely.

Or at least that was the case a few weeks ago; a more recent polling, from Pew, illustrates a more intriguing phenomenon – the decline of personal support for a vaccine over the course of the pandemic:

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This seems quite counter-intuitive, since as the number of deaths has steadily climbed – passing 200,000 (though the accuracy of the accounting methods in various states remains questionable) – you would have expected people becoming increasingly apprehensive; enough to want insurance against illness and death. In fact, the opposite has happened. And while those on the left are much more likely to be pro-vaccine than those on the right (by 14 per cent), note that the support has declined by 21 per cent on both sides of politics.

Another notable statistic sits in the ethnic break-down of the numbers:

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If you are a public health enthusiast you would be seriously concerned that only one third of black Americans would contemplate getting vaccinated, considering they are the most at risk minority (above-average obesity and the associated co-morbidities playing, I suspect, the biggest role).

The biggest doubt: “About three-quarters of Americans (77%) say it is at least somewhat likely that a vaccine for COVID-19 will be approved and used in the U.S. before it’s fully known whether it is safe and effective, including 36% who say this is very likely to happen. Just 22% say this is not too or not at all likely.” And knowing history, it’s difficult to blame the people.

Photo by Dimitri Houtteman on Unsplash

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