Investors welcomed Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna’s virus vaccines showing +90-95 percent effectiveness rates, but there’s still another piece of the puzzle to evaluate: will enough Americans be willing to get a vaccine to meaningfully/quickly stem the pandemic? Recent surveys show it could take some time to convince the vast majority of the American population. For example:
#1: Since July, Gallup has conducted a regular survey that asks: “If an FDA-approved vaccine to prevent [the virus] was available right now at no cost, would you agree to be vaccinated?”
- In its latest survey out this week, 58 pct of US adults polled from Oct. 19-Nov. 1 said they would get a vaccine. That was up from a low of 50 pct in September, but down from 66 pct in July.
- Forty-two percent of Americans said they would not get a vaccine, down from 50 pct in September and up from 34 pct in July.
Of the Americans who said they would not get a vaccine, here were their reasons:
- Over a third (37 pct) cited the rushed timeline for the development of the vaccine.
- Over a quarter (26 pct) said they wanted to wait to confirm the vaccine is safe.
- Twelve percent said they do not trust vaccines in general.
- Ten percent said they want to wait to see how effective the vaccine will be.
- Fifteen percent gave other reasons, including the “politicization of the vaccine potentially compromising its safety and the view that the vaccine is not necessary.”
Takeaway: on the plus side, Americans are more willing to take a vaccine in the latest poll than in September, even before Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna gave positive news about their highly effective vaccines. On the downside, 4 in 10 Americans are unwilling to get a vaccine.
#2: A recent survey by STAT and The Harris Poll, conducted between Oct. 29-31 found:
- Six in 10 Americans said they are “somewhat or very likely to get a vaccine if doing so would lower the risk of becoming infected by about half.”
- “Nearly two-thirds reported they would get a vaccine if the shot lowered their risk of contracting the virus by 75 pct.”
- “56 pct of those between 18 and 34 years old are likely to get vaccinated if a shot would decrease the odds of becoming infected by half. This rose to 64 pct, though, when a vaccine would reduce the risk of contracting the virus by 75 pct.”
- “More Americans say they are likely to get a vaccine, practice social distancing, and wear a mask if they or someone they know has contracted [the virus].”
Takeaway: this survey was also conducted before the Pfizer/BioNTech/Moderna news, but it suggests that the vaccine will have to be at least 50 pct effective to convince the general public to take it and +75 pct for younger Americans to do so. That those companies’ results far surpassed those thresholds may encourage a greater share of Americans to take a vaccine.
Bottom line: widespread vaccine adoption is necessary to reduce infection rates and allow Americans to return to normal life, enabling a full US economic recovery. But …
- Both polls show just over half of Americans are willing to take a vaccine, so there’s still a broad swath of the American public that needs to be convinced. The highly effective rates promised by the Pfizer/BioNTech/Moderna trials should help, but there are other important concerns that will take time to assuage.
- Just like the STAT/Harris poll showed Americans are more willing to get vaccinated and take other precautionary measures if they know someone who has contracted the virus, we suspect many will wait to hear from family/friends/colleagues about their experience with taking the vaccine. This includes inquiring about any side effects and if they were able to travel and go about normal life freely without contracting the virus.
- Our point here is that it will take time to convince most of the American population to take the vaccine even after it is available for wide distribution next year. The post-pandemic world we are living in will probably be around for longer than many of us want, which will likely weigh on economic growth and the US labor market even after an effective vaccine comes to market. It also means post-pandemic behavior is here to stay for a while, a boon for online retailers and enablers of work-from-home, but a continuing challenge for the travel and leisure industries, for example.
In sum, highly effective vaccines are certainly a light at the end of the tunnel, but their adoption rates are as yet uncertain. Equity markets are somewhat twitchy about what lays directly ahead, as we saw with yesterday’s drop after the announcement of NYC school closures. But what we don’t see discussed enough – vaccine adoption rates and how this feeds back into 2021 economic growth – is something that bears watching as we begin to consider the exact shape and scope of next year’s bounce back in US corporate earnings.