Here's how coronavirus vaccine skepticism could impact herd immunity

Stephanie Sierra Image
Wednesday, August 12, 2020
Bay Area residents say why they won't take COVID-19 vaccine
With many drugmakers running the race to find a COVID-19 vaccine, how many people will actually take it? Anti-vaxxers aren't the only group skeptical of getting the vaccine.

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- There are more than 165 COVID-19 vaccine candidates across the world, 38 of which are in human clinical trials, and eight are in phase III clinical trials as of Wednesday, according to the New York Times Vaccine Tracker.

It's the race for a coronavirus vaccine. But, once we have it, how many will actually take it?

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The group isn't just anti-vaxxers but those skeptical the rush will come at the cost of safety.

ABC7 profiled three people who share those concerns.

"I will never put a vaccine into my body," said Joseph Jacks, an anti-vaxxer.

"Tell me why you're concerned about a COVID vaccine," ABC7's Stephanie Sierra asked.

"Testing, testing, testing, testing, and more testing," Jacks said. "It's important if you're going to put something into your body that it's absolutely tested."

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Holly Baade owns a holistic healing practice in Marin. Her reasoning is personal.

"You can't buy a good immune system," she said. "Both of my children had vaccine damage problems. Clear health problems the same day they had toxins put into their bodies."

Dana Ullman isn't 'anti-vaxx' but concerned pharmaceutical companies are rushing through the process.

"I am not anti-vaccine," Ullman said. "But, when they're doing things such as they are now, not testing with a real placebo... it's a way of hiding what safety is involved."

  • 50% of Americans say they won't get a COVID-19 vaccine even if it was affordable and widely available, according to an AP poll taken in late May.
  • 1/3 surveyed said they're not sure.
  • 7 out of 10 said they are worried about safety.

"I have those same concerns," said Dr. Yvonne Maldonado, a Stanford Pediatrician. "Before I would put my own endorsement on vaccines for COVID, I would want to see the data too. I agree with them."

Dr. Maldonado specializes in infectious diseases and confers with CDC on vaccine research.

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She is also participating in Operation Warp Speed, the federal initiative that aims to deliver 300 million doses of a safe and effective COVID-19 vaccine by Jan. 2021.

"We are in a hurry, but we're not in that much of a hurry that we want to make a big mistake," Maldonado said. "We need to hold people to account...and understand why people don't want a vaccine."

Experts and data analysists have found one factor contributing to the confusion is misinformation circulating on social media.

150 of the largest anti-vaccine groups on social media and YouTube have gained 8 million followers since late March. There are at least 400 anti-vaxx groups that have 55 million followers worldwide, according to an international non-profit tracking those accounts.

"Do you think the anti-vaxx movement will impact how fast we get to herd immunity?" Sierra asked.

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"I don't think we're going to get there very quickly," Maldonado said. "There's no way we're going to stop transmission at a global level meaning around the country or the world, unless there's between 60 to 80% of people who have permanent or long-lasting immunity."

Dr. Maldonado said it may take two years to get to herd immunity worldwide, assuming vaccines are at least 70 to 75% effective.

To put it in perspective, the closest comparison to a COVID-19 vaccine is the MMR vaccine which start to finish took 4 years to develop.

Take a look at all of ABC7's Building a Better Bay Area stories and videos.

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