TAMPA, Fla. - A top USF medical professor says he’s troubled about a poll released this week that shows that just half of Americans say that they would get a COVID-19 vaccine once it’s available.

What You Need To Know

  • Survey: 49 percent of Americans would take vaccine if available

  • 20 percent said they would refuse it

  • Professor says there is a "double edged sword with social distancing"

  • More Coronavirus headlines

The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research survey found that just 49 percent of Americans say they would take the vaccine if available right now. Another 31 percent simply weren’t sure if they’d get vaccinated, and 20 percent said they’d refuse it.

“It is a concern,” says Dr. Michael Teng, a USF Health associate professor of internal medicine with appointments in molecular medicine, pediatrics and pharmaceutical sciences. “The anti-vaccine movement has put a lot of doubt in people’s minds about these vaccines. And it’s troublesome. Especially when we’re in a situation where we have a global pandemic…Nobody’s immune to this virus.”

The anti-vaccination movement has been growing in recent years, and a rally against mandatory vaccines is scheduled for Saturday afternoon in downtown Tampa. 

There are more than 100 vaccine efforts currently underway around the globe to stop the COVID-19 pandemic, according to the World Health Organization

On average, vaccines to battle viruses take years before they’re ready to come to market.  The mumps vaccine - considered the fastest ever approved - took four years before it was licensed in 1967.  The reason for the length of time is that the drugs must go through several phases of clinical trials to determine if they’re safe and effective. Financial resources also come into play. 

That’s where the hunt for a virus for COVID-19 is different – because so many governments and private sector players are putting up big money right now to fund these efforts, including academia.

“Most of my lab is doing coronavirus stuff right now, which is not our typical thing,” Dr. Teng says, adding that’s why believes the comments by people like Dr. Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, when he says we could have a vaccine within 12-18 months.

It’s been reported that anti-vaccination members helped organize some of the reopen the state rallies for business that spread across the nation last month, including a protest held in front of a local Tampa television last month.

At that rally, this reporter asked New Port Richey resident Janine Dombrowski if she would take a vaccination shot for COVID when it was available.

“Absolutely not, I mean, are you insane? Why?” she responded, before talking about herd immunity. 

“Us healthy people are the ones stopping this. Us walking around. Do you know how many viruses live on your body on the regular? Look it up!” she said.

But to get to herd immunity, doctors say you need to have upwards of at least 60%-70% of the country already infected with the virus. And there’s no place in the country where that is even close to happening.

The New York Times reports that in New York City, the epicenter of the coronavirus outbreak in the U.S., approximately 20 percent have antibodies, by far the highest of any city in the country. But in most places, it’s less than 10 percent of the population that has developed those antibodies.

That’s what Dr. Teng calls the “double edged sword of social distancing.”

The intense focus on having people stay at home was to “flatten the curve,” ostensibly to prevent hospitals and the health care system overall from being overrun from COVID infections. 

But that means that “not as many people have gotten the virus, and that also means that not as many people have antibodies to the virus,” says Teng. “Even in places like where like Sweden where they had a little bit less stringent social distancing guidelines, even there it’s still below 10 percent have been infected. So it will take a while for this virus to eventually come through and infect everybody so that we have herd immunity.”

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