The US has the vaccines it needs, but doubts about them are prolonging the pandemic. That the first world power denotes a certain stagnation in the exit from this health crisis is not a good message and its first consequence would be a delay in the exit from the economic crisis to which the rest of the world would not be oblivious.
If Europe is already paying for its meat to have started the vaccination campaign with numerous setbacks, the news that comes from the US is key for the immediate future. That the North American economy comes out of the morass is a lever for others and Joe Biden’s ambitious fiscal stimulus plans are seen in the rest of the world as a window of opportunity.
There is no denying that the latest vaccine news in the US has been positive. More than half of adults have already received at least one dose, and in most states, new cases have decreased or at least not increased. Medical staff know how to better deal with coronavirus patients, which has kept hospitalizations and deaths to a fraction of their highs this winter.
It seems that life may begin to approach something akin to normal as spring approaches summer, but a troubling question hangs in the air : Will enough Americans get to work to end the pandemic, or will there be too many? those who do not get vaccinated?
The biggest problem for the world, even in a vaccine-rich country like the US, is that there are too many undecided to bet on a generalized immunity that protects the population in the near future. The fewer people vaccinated, the longer the pandemic will last and the more lives will be lost .
The United States may have the technology and the personnel to end the disease, but not necessarily enough confidence in public health efforts to do so.
A Bloomberg report recounts the paradigmatic case of Jonathan Damato . A New York health veteran with 20 years of experience behind him, when the first vaccines were announced at the end of 2020, he was more than determined to get vaccinated. He had been dealing with covid patients for months and battling a disease they were unfamiliar with.
When he got home at the end of each day, a four-year-old son was waiting for him with a heart condition that made him especially vulnerable to the virus. For all this Damato was determined to get the dose as soon as he was. However, a Facebook post crossed his path that made him doubt everything.
A video appeared with an alleged expert charging against vaccines and his position turned into skepticism: he does not reject vaccines, but prefers to wait to see what happens to others.
Many Damato colleagues did the same. The New York City Fire Department states that only 47% of its paramedics have been vaccinated and similar reports have come in across the country. According to a March survey by the Washington Post and the Kaiser Family Foundation, about 3 in 10 frontline healthcare workers plan to do without the vaccine or are undecided .
A more recent Kaiser poll puts the figure for all Americans at 37%. There are especially strong pockets of skepticism among Republicans, people of color, and rural residents. And Damato’s story is common: messages from public health are usually less powerful than a single message from a trusted friend or family member.
Although vaccines have generally shown high efficacy with percentages above 90%, none are 100% perfect. If, on the one hand, some vaccinated people have continued to fall ill when exposed to the virus, the occasional cases of blood clots have rekindled suspicions. The US authorities halted the application of the Janssen vaccine after six cases of clots occurred among the seven million recipients of the drug.
Although they are very small data compared to the total volume and certainly very far from the mortality figures of the disease, they offer the perfect excuse for the narrative of skepticism. Distrust makes misinformation seem more credible and doubt is almost more contagious than the coronavirus .