Peter Pitts, president of the Center for Medicine in the Public Interest and a former FDA associate commissioner for external relations, said one of the biggest challenges states will face when distributing a new vaccine is public skepticism.
“Having a vaccine that nobody uses is a public health failure,” he said, adding that time is running out for public health officials to get out a persuasive message.
Americans already are skeptical. A poll released Monday by Harris and STAT found that 78% of Americans believe that the COVID-19 vaccine process is being driven more by politics than science.
But when it comes to trust in the president, the public breaks down along partisan lines. Although only 46% of the public trust the president or the White House to provide accurate information about the development of a COVID-19 vaccine, 71% of Republicans believe Trump compared to only 28% of Democrats.
There is more trust in the FDA than the president: 68% say they are confident that the FDA will only endorse a vaccine that is safe.
Gruters, who is one of the president’s most vocal cheerleaders in Florida, said he expects most of the public will trust a vaccine.
“There is a lot of distrust in government overall, but the FDA and its policies and science transcends politics,’’ he said. “If they say it’s ready and if they are getting results in these trials, then I’m confident.”
In a presidential election year, Pitts said, the pandemic and the government’s response have become “hyper-politicized.”
“If you don’t believe the messenger, you’re not going to believe the message.”