The nation's leading infectious disease specialist, Dr. Anthony Fauci, said he's concerned healthcare workers will be "hesitant" to get the coronavirus vaccine.
If healthcare workers are hesitant, he said in an interview with the Daily Beast, people working outside that industry will also be hesitant.
Sixty percent of the population said they would definitely or probably take a coronavirus vaccine in a recent poll from Pew Research.
But 40% of respondents said the opposite as concerns and skepticism around the vaccine are rising within anti-vaxxing groups as well.
As a coronavirus vaccine begins to roll out, Dr. Anthony Fauci said he's worried that healthcare workers will decline to get vaccinated and discourage others from doing so, too.
"My primary biggest fear is that a substantial proportion of the people will be hesitant to get vaccinated," Fauci, director of the National Institute for Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said in an interview with the Daily Beast.
"I think there are going to be many people who don't want to get vaccinated right away," he said, noting worries about those fighting the disease on the front lines opting out of taking the vaccine.
"We've got to make sure we get the healthcare workers the proper information," Fauci said. "What is the reason that they're hesitant? They think it went too fast? It was certainly the fastest we've ever approved the vaccine. But the speed is related to the extraordinary scientific advances in platform technology from vaccines that allowed us to do things in months that would have formerly taken several years."
"If you give them that information and explain it clearly to them then I think they will go along with getting vaccinated. If it doesn't, then I think we're going to be in a little bit of trouble," he added.
Over the weekend, Pfizer's coronavirus vaccine left the pharmaceutical company's Michigan-based manufacturing center. Trucks went out with doses ready for distribution to hospitals and clinics all around the country.
The Food and Drug Administration granted Pfizer's vaccine emergency approval on Friday. The company expects to distribute 50 million doses globally by year's end, according to a statement. By the end of next year, 1.3 billion doses will have been delivered.
If healthcare workers choose not to get the COVID-19 vaccine, swaths of people who aren't front-line responders will also feel hesitant, Fauci said, which could mean large populations of people in the United States will not be vaccinated against the virus.
As Business Insider's Canela Lopez previously reported, over half of the New York City Fire Department said they will refuse the first round of the vaccine. And the FDNY announced it will not make the COVID-19 vaccine mandatory for its employees.
A poll conducted in the final two weeks of November found that 60% of respondents said they would definitely or probably get a coronavirus vaccine. That figure is higher than the 51% of people who said the same back in September.
Still, 40% of people remain unsure or committed to not getting one, according to the poll from Pew Research. Among them are anti-vaxxer groups who are most against receiving it.
"But once you get ... tens of millions of people vaccinated, it looks like it's working and it's safe, then I think we'll win over a large proportion of the rest of the population, who might have some hesitancy about getting vaccinated," he said.
"If we can get a very high percentage of the United States population vaccinated with what is clearly a group of highly efficacious vaccines, we could have a major positive impact in turning around the dynamics of this outbreak," Fauci said, adding that a large portion of the general population will be able to get a vaccine "in April, May, and June."
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