Some Americans aren't in a rush to get a COVID-19 vaccine; experts understand but say there's no need to wait

Adrianna Rodriguez, USA TODAY

Beverly Askey doesn’t want to get the COVID-19 vaccine right away.

Although Askey, 69, is in a high-risk group because of her age and has a medical background as a nurse, she wants to wait.

“I would rather reserve my decision until I’m absolutely positive. … I’m not going to jump on the bandwagon,” Askey said. “I don’t know what it’s going to take for me to be positive, but it’s going to take more information than I currently have.”

Many Americans think like Askey. An ABC News/Ipsos poll released Monday found more than eight in 10 Americans would receive the COVID-19 vaccine, but 44% said they would wait before getting it.

While it's understandable to be hesitant of a new vaccine, physicians such as Dr. Caesar Djavaherian say, patients don't need to wait.

“Historically with a vaccine, the terrible (serious adverse events) that we’re always worried about actually present themselves in a matter of weeks,” Djavaherian, an ER doctor who leads the pandemic response at Carbon Health, a national primary and urgent care provider. “We’re not seeing that type of spike ... in the weeks we see people taking the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine.”

Experts say Americans should feel confident in the vaccines now based on the data. The U.S Food and Drug Administration released a 53-page evaluation that confirmed the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine is highly effective and safe.

Another 54-page FDA evaluation also confirmed Moderna’s vaccine is safe and effective. It is likely to be authorized Friday by the FDA.

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“Your chances of getting sick or dying is much greater going to the grocery store than going to get a vaccine,” said Barry Bloom, research professor of public health and former dean of Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.

Bloom acknowledged, however, that most Americans have not read the 107 pages of safety data and will need to see the results in “real life” outside clinical trials.

“The real answer will come when people within their realm of community take the vaccine and advocate it,” he said. “It will be a slow process – there’s no magic pill or bullet for changing people’s behavior or inspiring confidence.”

Djavaherian hopes the process doesn't take too long as the U.S. passes 300,000 COVID-19 deaths and more than 3,000 Americans die each day, according to Johns Hopkins University data.

He said unneccesary waiting could stall the overall effectiveness of the vaccine, leading to more infections, deaths and strain on the health care system.

“We have to balance the very real odds of becoming critically ill from the virus versus the theoretical odds of long-term side effects that haven’t been discovered yet,” he said. “(There’s) a real need now. … It’s hard to say ‘Let’s wait.’”

Follow Adrianna Rodriguez on Twitter: @AdriannaUSAT.

Health and patient safety coverage at USA TODAY is made possible in part by a grant from the Masimo Foundation for Ethics, Innovation and Competition in Healthcare. The Masimo Foundation does not provide editorial input.

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: COVID vaccine: Some Americans aren't in a rush; experts say don't wait