Most Americans Want Health Care Workers, Seniors Prioritized When Coronavirus Vaccine Comes

August 26, 2020 by Reece Nations
A patient receives an influenza vaccine in Mesquite, Texas. (AP Photo/LM Otero)

A new Harris poll found 69% of its respondents would support a priority system – particularly for workers in the health care sector and seniors – for COVID-19 vaccine distribution in the United States.

By comparison, 31% of respondents indicated they would rather the vaccine be distributed on a first-come-first-serve basis. The poll surveyed 1,967 U.S. adults from Aug. 14 through Aug. 16.

The poll reported that 73% and 71% of its respondents felt health care workers and adults aged 55 and up should be given first access to any potential coronavirus vaccine, respectively. Sixty-eight percent of respondents felt immunocompromised individuals should receive priority access and 60% felt essential workers should be prioritized.

Support for a priority system was consistently high among men and women, Republicans and Democrats and all income levels. However, the Harris Poll noted it is still too early “to assume that a vaccine is right around the corner, or that the first successful one would be a knockout punch whenever it does arrive.”

Although “dozens of potential vaccines are under development,” none have been proven to work, according to the report. Low quantities of the vaccine are expected to plague distribution when it launches. 

Experts say it will be necessary to parcel out the available doses internationally, and then implement a risk-based system to decide which people should get it first.

While the majority of the poll’s respondents said they supported a priority system of distribution for U.S. cases, 66% of respondents said the vaccine should be made available abroad only after the domestic demand is satisfied. Only 34% of polled individuals said the vaccine should immediately be made available overseas.

China, the U.S. and the United Kingdom are currently the three leading countries in vaccine development. Experts indicate whichever country manages a breakthrough on the COVID-19 vaccine front first “will likely have some advantage when it comes time to distribute the available doses, but if any one country is able to hoard them all, the global pandemic could rage on for years,” the report said.

Despite 69% of respondents saying they would be “at least somewhat likely” to get vaccinated for coronavirus as soon as possible, only 51% said they would be likely to do so if the vaccine was developed by a country other than the U.S. 

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