COVID-19 vaccine under development, but some Americans hesitant about safety

As some states begin softening stay at home orders Friday, the US will test the success of efforts thus far to stop the spread of COVID-19.

Many doctors have expressed concerns that states are lifting restrictions to early which could result in a resurgence of the novel coronavirus.

Meanwhile, drugmakers are fast-tracking efforts to develop a vaccine under pressure from the Trump Administration to have one ready within 12-18 months.

Emergency room physician, Dr. Jijoe Joseph, called American buy-in to whatever vaccine is developed integral to preventing another pandemic and developing what doctors call "herd immunity."

Herd immunity is the term doctors use to describe a condition in which enough people have immunity to a disease to prevent it from spreading within the population. The more people who have immunity, the less likely it is an infected person will pass that disease on to others.

Individuals can develop immunity by having a disease and beating it or by getting vaccinated against it, Dr. Joseph said.

"The sad fact is, herd immunity without a vaccine just isn't a solution to this pandemic" Dr. Joseph said. "This is something we have not seen before. This is more virulent than anything we have seen since the Spanish flu."

Historically, Americans have been hesitant to get vaccinated.

While a measles vaccine is generally required among children in order to attend public schools, 7 On Your Side Investigates found roughly one out of three schools in New Jersey and around one out of 10 schools in Connecticut and New York did not have the roughly 95% vaccination rate doctors recommend to prevent an outbreak, just before the 2019 measles outbreak in the US.

During that outbreak, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio had to threaten fines for individuals who refuse to immunize their children, and New York State passed legislation eliminating religious exemptions from vaccines.

However, in instances where vaccines are generally voluntary, such as the flu shot, we found vaccine compliance was much lower.

According to the CDC, less than one out of two adults and just under two out of three children in the US received a flu shot last year.

Many people have expressed concerns about the safety of a possible COVID-19 vaccine. Typically vaccines take years to obtain FDA approval, not 12-18 months, the timeline drug companies and researchers are working under.

"I would never get the vaccine. It is going to be fast-tracked," wrote Cathy Orofino in an email.

We met Orofino last year while she fought a state order to vaccinate her three boys for Measles. She opted to home school her children instead.

On Facebook pages for people with concerns about vaccines, we found many people sharing Orofino's point of view.

Some of the comments regarding the vaccine included, "Over my dead body," "We do not consent," and "Yep, will not comply."

Despite doctor reassurances of the safety and effectiveness of vaccines, it's safe to say many Americans won't rush to obtain a COVID-10 vaccine, and doctors say that could present a challenge in nationwide efforts to keep the virus contained.

"I can tell you that natural immunity is not going to work with this disease," Dr. Joseph said. "The vaccine may not protect you but the closest thing we can get to herd immunity to protect those that may not be able to protect themselves is by getting the vaccination."

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