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Dec. 9, 2020, 3:36 p.m. EST

The U.S. is getting closer to COVID-19 vaccine distribution, but only about half of Americans say they’re ready to get the shots

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By Associated Press

WASHINGTON (AP) — As states frantically prepare to begin months of vaccinations that could end the pandemic, a new poll finds only about half of Americans are ready to roll up their sleeves when their turn comes.

The survey from The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research shows about a quarter of U.S. adults aren’t sure if they want to get vaccinated against the coronavirus. Roughly another quarter say they won’t.

Many on the fence have safety concerns and want to watch how the initial rollout fares — skepticism that could hinder the campaign against the scourge that has killed nearly 290,000 Americans. Experts estimate at least 70% of the U.S. population needs to be vaccinated to achieve herd immunity, or the point at which enough people are protected that the virus can be held in check.

See also: Obama, Bush and Clinton say they would get the COVID-19 vaccine publicly to boost confidence

“Trepidation is a good word. I have a little bit of trepidation towards it,” said Kevin Buck, a 53-year-old former Marine from Eureka, California.

Buck said that he and his family probably will get vaccinated eventually, if initial shots go well.

“I think a lot of people are not sure what to believe, and I’m one of them,” he said.

Amid a frightening surge in COVID-19 that promises a bleak winter across the country, the challenge for health authorities is to figure out what it will take to make people trust the shots that Dr. Anthony Fauci, the top U.S. infectious-disease expert, calls the light at the end of the tunnel.

Read more: U.S. coronavirus case tally climbs to 15 million from 14 million in just five days

“If Dr. Fauci says it’s good, I will do it,” said Mary Lang, 71, of Fremont, California. She added: “Hopefully if enough of us get the vaccine, we can make this virus go away.”

Early data suggests the two U.S. frontrunners — one vaccine made by Pfizer /zigman2/quotes/202877789/composite PFE +2.58% and BioNTech /zigman2/quotes/214419716/composite BNTX +7.69% and another by Moderna /zigman2/quotes/205619834/composite MRNA +6.84% and the National Institutes of Health — offer strong protection. The Food and Drug Administration is poring over study results to be sure the shots are safe before deciding in the coming days whether to allow mass vaccinations, as Britain began doing with Pfizer’s shots on Tuesday.

See also: World watches as first person receives Pfizer-BioNTech COVID shot

Despite the hopeful news, feelings haven’t changed much from an AP-NORC poll in May, before it was clear a vaccine would pan out.

In the survey of 1,117 American adults conducted Dec. 3-7, about 3 in 10 said they are very or extremely confident that the first available vaccines will have been properly tested for safety and effectiveness. About an equal number said they are not confident. The rest fell somewhere in the middle.

About 7 in 10 of those who said they won’t get vaccinated are concerned about side effects. Pfizer and Moderna say testing has uncovered no serious ones so far. As with many vaccines, recipients may experience fever, fatigue or sore arms from the injection, signs the immune system is revving up.

Read: What to expect from the FDA’s important COVID-19 vaccine meeting Thursday

But other risks might not crop up until vaccines are more widely used. Britain health authorities are examining two possible allergic reactions on the first day the country began mass vaccinations with the Pfizer shot.

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