Poll: Share who say they'll get COVID vaccine once it's available falls to ... 42%

Forty-two percent seems about right for dystopian America.

So does the fact that interest has fallen since early May across all three partisan groups. Democrats are actually down off their peak slightly more than Republicans are and independents are the group least inclined to get the vaccine among the three. Yahoo News speculates, probably correctly, that different groups are expressing their lack of trust in different actors. For Republicans, it may be skepticism of experts like Fauci that’s driving wariness about the vaccine. For Democrats, it’s likely the suspicion that Trump might try to push a vaccine to market before it’s been fully tested as a pre-election “October surprise.” No one trusts anyone and so we find ourselves in a surreal moment in which 150,000 people are dead, the epidemic shows no sign of abating, yet most Americans when asked about the possibility of a cure react with “um, maybe not just yet.”

Maybe someone can convince “Q” to endorse the vaccine. That might boost public confidence across our decaying, mortifying country.

“Only” around 20-25 percent say they won’t get the vaccine. A larger share is in the wait-and-see category and will probably come around once there’s an actual product on the market and authorities whom Americans trust endorse it as safe and effective. One potential snag: Who are those authorities, exactly? Even the “trusted” scientists aren’t so trusted at this point.

Not a single figure listed there cracks 50 percent with independents. Presumably Fauci’s and the CDC’s numbers will continue to deteriorate since they’re both in no-man’s land politically, technically employees of Trump and thus a bit suspect to Dems but also spokesmen for the scientific consensus and thus suspect to Republicans. Trump’s numbers, meanwhile, are a dumpster fire, further evidence of what I wrote a few days ago about how silly it is to think he’ll win the election by bringing a dubious vaccine to the public in October. No one except his core MAGA base trusts him enough to take it.

By the time we have a vaccine that works, there’ll be no one with enough credibility to convince Americans to get the jab. Undecideds will probably end up watching the early adapters for evidence that the shot really does work and that the side effects aren’t too miserable. Speaking of which, when people were asked if they’d get the shot knowing that it causes fever and headaches in one-third of recipients, refuseniks became a plurality. The numbers went from 42/27 on yes/no to getting vaccinated to 35/40. Remember that, in all probability, America will need a huge majority of the population to be vaccinated in order to have a shot at herd immunity, and even then it might not be possible unless the vaccine is highly effective in preventing infection. If it’s hit-or-miss, with the same middling efficacy rate that the annual flu shot has, COVID may plague us every year even if we all get vaccinated.

It’ll probably be brute legal force that forces a widespread public buy-in, not the dulcet endorsement of Anthony Fauci. If proof of vaccination becomes a prerequisite for access to certain services, e.g. attending school, buying an airline ticket, attending an event held in an arena or stadium, that’ll force further compliance. But even that may not be enough to eradicate the virus. It might never go away.

A post as depressing as this one deserves a note of optimism to lighten it up. Coincidentally, a little-known biotech firm named Novavax released some data from Phase One of its own vaccine trial today. Novavax has never successfully brought a product to market but its experimental design for a COVID-19 vaccine earned it a billion-dollar grant from the U.S. government as part of Operation Warp Speed. This fascinating NYT piece about their product and the new data suggests that scientists are very taken with the early results, even by the standards of other promising vaccines like Moderna and Oxford.

Although it’s not possible to directly compare the data from clinical trials of different coronavirus vaccines, John Moore, a virologist at Weill Cornell Medicine who was not involved in the studies, said the Novavax results were the most impressive he had seen so far.

“This is the first one I’m looking at and saying, ‘Yeah, I’d take that,’” Dr. Moore said…

When … monkeys were infected, some versions of the vaccine left them with no trace of the vaccine in their lungs or noses.

“That’s pretty remarkable,” said Akiko Iwasaki, an immunologist at Yale University. She noted that the Novavax vaccine provided stronger protection for monkeys than have other coronavirus vaccines, such as Moderna’s messenger RNA vaccine.

Novavax uses cells from moths to manufacture the signature “spike” protein found on SARS-CoV-2; “[p]rotein-based vaccines have a longer track record than some of the newer approaches,” notes the Times. But it’s not just the protein that patients are inoculated with. Novavax adds a compound called an “adjuvant” that turbo-charges the immune response. Without the adjuvant, recipients of the vaccine produced modest levels of antibodies. With the adjuvant, they produced large amounts. (The vaccine also boosted T-cells, another key immunity component.) Using moth cells also allows Novavax to make the proteins for the vaccine more quickly than traditional protein-based vaccines, which use cells from mammals. The company’s president called it “very attractive from a manufacturing standpoint. You can make a huge number of doses.” They’re still a few months away from Phase Three trials to test if the vaccine truly immunizes humans from coronavirus but researchers seem excited about its potential.

Maybe that’s what it’ll take to get the public to clamor for it — not just a “yeah, it works” verdict from scientists but a “holy hell, it works much better than we hoped” burst of enthusiasm. And if that fails, there’s always brute legal force.