The following is from Gallup:
In 1954, shortly after the newly developed polio vaccine became available, Dr. George Gallup interpreted Americans' reaction to it positively, saying, "The public itself is very optimistic about the effectiveness of the Salk test. By more than a 13-to-1 ratio, the people interviewed who expressed an opinion feel that the new vaccine will work."
To be precise, 53% thought the vaccine would work, 4% thought it would not, 33% were unsure and 10% were not familiar with the vaccine at all. That same year, Gallup found 60% of Americans saying they were willing to take the new vaccine themselves, while 31% said they would not.
This level of skepticism about a new vaccine has proven not unique to polio, as similar percentages of Americans have expressed reluctance about four subsequent vaccines measured over the years.
- Three years later, in 1957, 20% said they would not take an Asian flu vaccine, with 15% saying they were unsure.
- Even higher percentages said they would not take new vaccines for smallpox in 2002 (45% would not or were unsure) and the swine flu in 2009 (45%).
- The 35% who now say they would not take a COVID-19 vaccine once it becomes available is right within the historical range.
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