Will You Get the COVID-19 Vaccine?

By Luke Burgess, Energy & Capital, Tuesday, September 15

A new poll by the Kaiser Family Foundation shows that 81% of Americans believe a coronavirus vaccine will not be widely available before the November election.

And even if it is, most say they won't get it.

The KFF credits safety concerns stemming from political involvement and rushed development as a leading factor in America's reluctance to get vaccinated against COVID.

President and CEO of the foundation Drew Altman said in a press release, “Public skepticism about the FDA and the process of approving a vaccine is eroding public confidence even before a vaccine gets to the starting gate.”

The press release continued, saying:

Most Americans (62%) worry that the political pressure from the Trump administration will lead the Food and Drug Administration to rush to approve a coronavirus vaccine without making sure that it is safe and effective, the latest KFF Health Tracking Poll finds.

The main message here is Americans are reluctant to get vaccinated against COVID over safety concerns.

But is that really the case?

Is safety really most people's primary concern over the vaccine?

I don't think there's any doubt there are very real safety concerns over a rushed vaccine. But you and I both know safety is not people's primary concern. One in 25 deaths are from preventable causes. Safety is usually high on people's list but rarely the No. 1 priority.

For certain, everyone's decisions, ideas, actions, etc., are usually based on multiple motivations. No one does anything for a single purpose. But when we're asked to explain our decisions, ideas, actions, etc., we typically give a single reason. And the single reason we give as explanation is typically the one that makes us look best or is the hardest to argue against.

Let me give you an example. Here's something I did recently (Yeah, I'm guilty of this BS too):

A few years ago, there was a sidewalk across the street from my building that needed repair. Instead of paying for the repair, the building owner just put road cones around the damage and left it like that for almost three years.

I wanted that sidewalk fixed for a few reasons. Listed by priority, those reasons included:

  1. It was an eyesore — I didn't want to look at road cones every day when I left my house.

  2. I was tired of answering questions about why the cones were still up.

  3. It was a safety issue — someone could trip and hurt himself.

So those were my main reasons I wanted the sidewalk fixed.

Which of those three do you think I brought up to the building manager first?

Of course I brought up the safety issue first. That was the hardest of my reasons for the building manager to argue against.

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Was safety a concern?


Was safety my primary concern?


So do I believe safety is really people's primary concern about a rushed vaccine?


So what then do I believe is the primary reason people are reluctant to get this vaccine?

Well, it's most likely the same reason we're reluctant to get any vaccine.

Getting a vaccine is like buying insurance. There's a cost-to-risk ratio that every individual calculates in his or her own mind. If the cost of the insurance (or vaccine) is significantly greater than the risk, buying the insurance (or getting the vaccine) isn't worth it.

In the case of this vaccine, the costs will likely be very low. Most people will probably be able to get the vaccine for free or with a small copay. And it will only take an hour (maybe two) at a clinic.

But at the same time, the odds of getting coronavirus are also extremely low, despite what the media would have you think. As of today, there are about 6.5 million confirmed COVID cases in America. That's a lot. But with a total population of 325 million people, your odds of contracting COVID on average in the past six months were 2%.

So we have to consider: Is whatever small fee and a few hours of our time worth the average 2% chance we have of contracting coronavirus?

If you're in the medical community, you're going to say yes, definitely. But if you're an average Joe, 2% odds of getting COVID aren't much of a motivation.

Truth is, the medical community and the public simply have priorities that are altogether different. Read more about that here.

I think it would ultimately be better if we were honest with the medical and political communities. We're telling them both that safety is our primary concern, not because it actually is but rather because it's the easiest to explain and hardest to argue against. I don't think there's anything wrong with considering the cost-to-risk ratio of getting the vaccine — especially considering the medical community controls the costs and could make the whole process much easier if it desired.

Show up at my front door (scheduled and exactly on time) and stick the needle in my arm at no cost, and I'll instantly take the vaccine. But without something so insane, the 2% odds are going to be my primary motivation when considering getting this vaccine whenever it does become available.

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