Controversy has erupted over the possible release of a COVID-19 vaccine prior to the November 3rd election, with President Trump hinting that a vaccine may be ready by October, while the CDC has instructed states to be prepared to distribute a vaccine at that time. These assertions have prompted a backlash from some public health experts, countering that this timeline is extremely improbable.
Concerns over the possible politicization of emergency use authorization by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) of a COVID-19 vaccine prior to the completion of phase 3 trials, in turn, has prompted the various pharmaceutical companies currently working on vaccines to prepare an unprecedented joint public statement that they will not submit a vaccine to the FDA for approval until they have compelling scientific proof that it is safe and effective. The political debate occurring against the backdrop of a presidential election raises concerns that many Americans may be unwilling to accept a vaccine because they do not trust the government or its agencies to prioritize safety and efficacy over politics.
Meanwhile, Democratic vice presidential candidate Kamala Harris commented during a CNN interview on getting a COVID-19 vaccine prior to the election: “I would not trust Donald Trump.” She subsequently amended her statement, saying in part, "I would trust a vaccine if the public health professionals and the scientists told us that we can trust it." In this report, we explore the issue of public trust regarding the handling of COVID-19 across 15 institutions and individual leaders and its link to public willingness to be vaccinated if a vaccine becomes available.