The number of Americans willing to get the coronavirus vaccine continues to grow, but there is still a significant number of people unwilling to get the shot.
According to a recent Kaiser Family Foundation poll, about half of adults surveyed in January said they are somewhat reluctant to get a COVID-19 vaccination, with about 20% saying they would only get it if required, or would definitely not get it; those numbers are down across the board from a similar poll taken in December.
Proud mother and grandma, 52-year-old Maria Ellison is in good health, and her gut is telling her to wait and see how other people react to the coronavirus vaccine before getting it herself.
"I'm still scared a little, but I'm scared because it's new," Ellison said. "They haven't worked out the kinks."
Whether or not to get vaccinated is a personal decision, but experts say watching and waiting is a choice that too many are making.
"There's still a portion of the population that doesn't want to take the vaccine and that is working against us," Jeffrey Shaman, infectious disease forecaster and Environmental Health Sciences Professor at Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health, told Spectrum News.
With fewer people getting vaccinated, Shaman says it will take much, much longer to reach a level of herd immunity that allows businesses, schools, and every day life to return to some level of normalcy.
"We really do need to inoculate 70 percent of the population at a minimum, I would say, to really get ourselves in a position where we feel like we're starting to get comfortably safe,” Shaman added.
Returning to a new normal is not the only reason vaccine distribution needs to be kicked into high gear. Experts say as many people as possible need a first dose of the covid-19 vaccine because as the virus continues to spread rapidly, it replicates inside infected people, which can lead to mutations, and potentially to new variants that are more dangerous than what we’ve already seen.
"The virus may be evolving and evading our immune responses to the vaccines and to the drugs that are available. But that so far has not been the case," Laura Goodman, Infectious Disease Virologist, Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine, told Spectrum News.
Experts say a bullet was dodged with the variant discovered in the U.K. because the two available vaccines protect against it. The COVID-19variants discovered in South Africa and Brazil appear to be slightly less protected by the vaccines. Federal health officials say a booster shot is in the works, and suggest now is the time for those on the fence to really take a hard look at the pros and cons of getting vaccinated.
In the meantime, the Biden Administration plans to beef up resources for vaccine education and community outreach.
Ellison eventually took her concerns to her doctor of 20 years: "He explained that the technology is new, but it's not unknown. He also explained that it doesn't contain a live virus, so there's no risk of it causing the disease in a vaccinated person."
Ellison says when her eligibility group is up, she will likely get vaccinated. She recommends others find a trusted, knowledgeable source to answer their questions too. “It was my lack of research and knowledge that had me really like, no, I'm not doing this. But then as I started to talk to my doctor and do my research and also talk to essential workers, I started to feel a bit more comfortable.”