When the US started rolling out COVID-19 vaccines, I knew I’d sign up for mine as soon as it became available to me. After seeing how the virus ravaged communities throughout the world—and having to wear a mask around and social distance from people I care about—I knew I had to play my part in helping the country regain a sense of normalcy.
Some of my friends, however, weren’t quite as excited. After I voiced my own excitement for getting the vaccine, several told me they want to wait a year before getting it. Their reasoning? To see whether any to-be-determined long-term health issues crop up in people who got the jab.
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And they’re not alone: According to the most recent round of polling conducted by the Kaiser Family Foundation, 17% of the public want to take a “wait and see” approach—meaning they’d like to “wait until [the COVID-19 vaccine] has been available for a while to see how it is working for other people” before getting vaccinated themselves. Though that number has dropped from 31% of people who wanted to take the “wait and see” approach in January 2021, experts say that the US may reach a “tipping point” soon, as the supply for COVID-19 vaccines beings to outpace the demand—which will then threaten the country’s chances of herd immunity against the virus.
There are a few explanations as to why someone might be more likely to take the “wait and see” approach regarding the vaccine. For example, they may not trust in the vaccine’s safety, Wändi Bruine de Bruin, PhD, provost professor of public policy, psychology, and behavioral science at the University of Southern California, tells Health. Or some may view the vaccine as more of a gamble—seeing equal or greater risks versus rewards—which leads them to hold the belief that more data are still needed and choose to wait it out, Jennifer Trueblood, PhD, associate professor of psychology at Vanderbilt University, tells Health.
However, these ideas are all in contrast to what experts from around the world have told the public about the COVID-19 vaccines: That they are safe, effective, and (despite an expedited process) made using the same methods and precautions for other vaccines—from development, to clinical trials, to emergency use authorizations granted by the US Food and Drug Administration.