2021 is now upon us and it promises to be a historic year for the world. The first COVID-19 vaccines are rolling out in Europe and North America; China and Russia continue to promote their vaccines as safe, effective and affordable; all while many countries continue to see cases spike in second or third waves. Against this uncertain backdrop, it’s important to look at what doctors think will happen in the year ahead. Especially those on the frontline.
The Real Time Barometer is an observational study of the impact of the COVID-19 outbreak as reported by physicians with firsthand experience treating COVID-19 patients. Each week, thousands of physicians provide insights on topics regarding the global health crisis. To date, Sermo has conducted over 60,800 interviews with doctors in 31 countries, including the United States, Canada, United Kingdom, France, Brazil, Russia, China, Japan and Australia.
Study 15 of Sermo’s COVID-19 Real Time Barometer took the pulse of nearly 4,000 global doctors and it revealed that 74 percent of physicians believe it will take at least 7 months to achieve community immunity with the new vaccines. Sixty percent of the almost 4,000 physicians who participated said they believed it would take at least 10 months or longer, while 23 percent said it would take at least 18 months.
The long runway to community immunity could be driven by barriers physicians believe will hinder adoption of the vaccine. 81 percent of physicians believed that concerns over vaccine safety or potential side effects could keep people from agreeing to take the vaccine. 46 percent indicated that people may not want the vaccine because they believe they won’t get the illness or that symptoms will be mild, while 39 percent said they thought people may not take the vaccine because they don’t like people or the government telling them what to do.
The survey includes responses from physicians in 25 countries.
In a follow-on poll among 212 physicians on Sermo’s global social platform, doctors believe healthcare workers should be the first to get the vaccine once it becomes available followed by other frontline workers. This is in alignment with recommendations made the same day by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP), which decided that health workers and residents of long-term care facilities should receive the vaccine first. ACIP’s recommendation will need to be approved by the director of the CDC before it becomes official policy.
“We need the hospital personnel to go first because they care for the sick and we cannot afford to lose them,” said Dr. Anne Kiltinen, an anesthesiologist practicing in New York. “And when I say hospital personnel, I mean the nursing staff and hospital personnel, not me. I am a senior attending and my contact with patients is limited, so I can wait. We also need public information campaigns. We’ve seen that some patients are concerned about safety and effectiveness.”
The Real Time Barometer also found that the majority of physicians believe that during this critical time, it is imperative that the U.S. participate in the World Health Organization. Of all respondents, 68 percent said that it was very important and 16 percent said it was somewhat important for the U.S. to be part of the global organization.
Most physicians were also anticipating that their communities would endure another lockdown soon, with 37 percent saying it was very likely and 40 percent saying it was somewhat likely.