Why Cynicism Is Beating Hope on COVID-19 Vaccine
WHY YOU SHOULD CARE
America doesn't think the first shots will go to those who need them most.
By Fiona Zublin
Investors have found a new way to make bank: the search for a coronavirus vaccine. The vaccine itself is unlikely to arrive before the end of the year, but senior executives who sell their shares in firms that are working toward a vaccine right after major announcements of progress are raking in millions of dollars, according to reports, while an estimated 17.8 million Americans were unemployed in June.
We tell you this not to make you mad. It’s to illustrate that the search for a vaccine, while aiming for a huge boon to humanity, is already overrun by people out to make a quick buck. And Americans have caught on there. According to a recent YouGov poll:
43 percent of U.S. respondents think the first vaccine doses will go to countries that can pay the most, not those where the outbreak is worst.
Just 28 percent think priority for a vaccine will go to nations needing it the most, the exact same percentage who say they simply don’t know how it’ll shake out. Of course, when it comes to the coronavirus pandemic, America — not used to thinking of itself as being at the bottom of the global food chain — is the country with the most infections and deaths in the world.
But the cynicism over who will get priority for the vaccine also reflects demographic and political differences. Those ages 25 to 34 (millennials) are 32 percent more likely than those over 55 (boomers) to believe that the first shots will go to those with the deepest pockets. And Democrats are 23 percent more likely than Republicans to hold that view. Independents outstrip them both, with a full 53 percent believing the vaccine will find its way to the wealthiest nations first.
“The belief that the COVID-19 vaccine will go to the wealthy first, especially when held by millennials and Democrat-leaning sections of the population, may be in reference to the fact that health care in the United States is a for-profit operation,” says Danny Haiphong, co-author of American Exceptionalism and American Innocence: A People’s History of Fake News From the Revolutionary War to the War on Terror. “And if it is assumed that the U.S. is the global hegemon, then it can also be assumed that the U.S. will do everything it can to make the vaccine profitable to pharmaceuticals and insurance companies instead of prioritizing the health and well-being of the people. After all, this is what we have witnessed in devastating terms throughout the pandemic.”
YouGov’s tracker of American attitudes toward how the government is handling the pandemic has confidence at an all-time low: Just 38 percent of people think the U.S. government is handling it well, indicating that while many are predicting the vaccine will go to the wealthiest first, they may not necessarily be on board with that from an ethical standpoint.
Or maybe it doesn’t matter to them. As of mid-July, 1 in 4 Americans say they won’t get a COVID-19 vaccine if and when one becomes available (and less than half of Republicans say they’ll get the shot). That’s a significant increase from 19 percent who said they wouldn’t get the shot in a May poll. According to the Mayo Clinic, experts estimate that unless 70 percent of the population is inoculated against COVID-19, there’ll be no herd immunity to the disease. In other words, we could all be in trouble.