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If you are dubious about the hurried pace of the COVID vaccine trials, you’re not alone. Uncertainty was rife among the nearly 13,000 respondents to the American Nurses Foundation (ANF) Pulse on the Nation’s Nurses COVID-19 Survey Series: COVID-19 Vaccine, October 2020. While about half of the nurses surveyed (47% and 48% respectively) said they are “somewhat confident” regarding the development and efficacy of the promised vaccine, 40% have no confidence in the accelerated development process, and 38% doubt that it will result in an effective vaccine.

Nurses can usually be relied on to cheer the appearance of new vaccines and encourage their use, so why do 36% say that they probably would not voluntarily use a fast-tracked Covid vaccine? Most of their concerns revolve around the extreme (and unprecedented) haste of development; in fact, 84% believe that the process is “too fast,” and 75% are not happy with the expedited clinical trials. Skepticism runs so high that 44% say that they would not feel comfortable talking about a Covid vaccine with their patients. The general US public seems slightly more hopeful, but the numbers are still discouraging. In a recent Harris Poll, 40% of the respondents stated that “Warp Speed” is an unsuitable velocity for Covid vaccine development, and Americans planning to get vaccinated as soon as possible dropped by over 20%, falling from 79% in mid-August to 58% in mid-October. Nurses may be ahead of the curve owing to their training in evidence-based practice and professional knowledge. They are also more likely to seek authoritative sources. Most of the nurses in the ANF Covid vaccine survey get their information from a combination of mainstream media outlets, professional associations, and government agencies such as the CDC. What is prompting their concerns?

The breakneck pace of the Covid vaccine trial process, as mentioned, is a major sticking point. Normally, vaccine trials take at least two years to reach conclusive results. In the rush to curb the pandemic, though, pharmaceutical companies are setting their sights lower and instead of spending years on trials, some companies (such as Pfizer) are attempting to produce a viable vaccine in less than 12 months. (For more background, see this article in the Atlantic). As a recent article in Stat put it, “data generated in a few hundred people aren’t enough to determine whether a vaccine will actually fend off illness,” and the Operation Warp Speed forecast that a Covid vaccine will be available for seniors by January “Has always been aspirational — probably excessively so.” Kaiser Health News remarked that some specialists fear that the trials “Will be too short in duration and too small in size to prove that the vaccines will prevent what people fear most — being hospitalized or dying — by the time the first vaccine makers file for emergency authorization.”

This Covid vaccine survey was the third ANF Pulse on the Nation’s Nurses COVID-19 survey. The previous survey, released in September, examined the financial hardships nurses are experiencing during the pandemic. The first survey, released in July, focused on mental wellness.

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