COVID-19 mobile testing unit for intermountain 15

Phlebotomist David Sagae checks the consistency of saliva at a mobile COVID-19 testing site provided by Intermountain Healthcare at Orem Community Hospital on Tuesday, Oct. 6, 2020. Isaac Hale, Daily Herald

A recent Brigham Young University study set out to establish how people feel about a potential COVID-19 vaccine as well as their concerns and what barriers might keep them from receiving a potential vaccine.

The study discovered political views did not show any association to a person’s willingness to be vaccinated.

While politics did not play a role, the two biggest tell-tale signs that predicted how people felt about a potential COVID-19 vaccine were their general feelings toward vaccines and their views of the COVID-19 pandemic in terms of importance

“Since we think that a vaccine for COVID-19 is probably the best way to get us kind of permanently out of the situation we are in, we wanted to, before a vaccine becomes available, see what types of messaging would be the most useful in helping people to decide on becoming vaccinated and also some barriers that would prevent people from being vaccinated,” said Brian Poole, senior study author and BYU professor of microbiology and molecular biology.

The included a survey of people from across America. The people selected to participate in the study were selected to reflect national census data.

Participants were asked about their attitudes toward a possible COVID-19 vaccine in several ways. A computer model was built to illustrate what factors were most predictive of their willingness to be vaccinated or not.

As for political beliefs, researches hypothesized political affiliations would be predictive of willingness to be vaccinated. Participants self-reported which political party they were a part of, and the study also allowed participants to rank themselves on a scale based on how liberal or conservative their views are.

However, neither had any relation to people’s opinions toward a potential vaccine.

“That was really interesting because it has become a very politicized topic,” Poole said. “We found that there was really no association, at all, with political beliefs, which is nice. Since it’s hard to change political beliefs and a lot of people’s attitudes are shaped by those, that would be a nice place to keep this. Where people from all sides of the spectrum are willing to be vaccinated, and they are not feeling like they can’t be because their politics disagree with it.”

As for one of the bigger tell-tale signs with regards to predicting attitudes toward a vaccine, how people viewed the pandemic in terms of importance had a big impact.

At about 35%, about 1-in-3 people thought that the pandemic was the most important, with another 30% saying it is a problem that is more important than others.

Thirty-five percent of people, however, viewed the pandemic as somewhat of a problem or not very much of a problem.

The other tell-tale sign was beliefs in vaccines. A press release from BYU said about 10% of Americans are anti-vaccine while Poole’s previous work showed about 13% of people on BYU’s campus were hesitant toward vaccines. He added that vaccine hesitancy is on the rise.

“The major concern most people had with the vaccine was safety, that it would cause side effects or that it wasn’t being tested enough or that it was being pushed through too quickly,” Poole said. “Almost everybody had those concerns, at least to some extent. One thing, I would say, is look at how the testing is going now.”

Poole pointed those who are worried about safety to the current testing going on where eight companies are trying to make a vaccine.

He also cited that two of the trials were stopped to investigate possible side effects of the vaccine. He said those side effects were found in one or two participants out of 10,000 or more people.

“Side effects of vaccines are very well studied, this is science at work,” Poole said. “If a vaccine has negative effects, then it is rejected and it’s not going to be pushed on the American people because we have good protocols in place. When we make it through the process and come out the other side, these vaccines have proven through sufficient testing to be safe and effective then I think we can believe that. Safety should not be a major concern for people because they are being well tested and the protocols are being followed.”

With regards to anti-vaccine people, Poole urged them to focus on the testing and trials while also thinking about more than just oneself.

“You’re not just doing this for yourself, you’re doing it for the people who are maybe more at risk in your life and the fact that it’ll help the economy to rebound,” Poole said. “It’ll help everything to get back to the way it was.”