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Growing "anti-vaxx" movement complicates U.S. fight against COVID-19

(Xinhua)    13:51, November 25, 2020

Frank Wessley, 39, a multi-media professional based in the Washington D.C. area, said he will get the COVID vaccine the moment it is available.

"I want to get it so I can travel outside the U.S.," he told Xinhua, speaking of the COVID-19 vaccine that has been developed at lightning speed.

Joe and Maya Charles in Pennsylvania echoed such sentiments, saying they will rush out to purchase air tickets to visit Japan or some other vacation destinations, once a vaccine is available.

The couple, who are both in the medical field, has two little daughters, and want to get the whole family vaccinated.

But there is a growing number of Americans who fret over possible side effects, and that concerns medical experts who said a vaccine is what will ultimately end the pandemic.

The White House's Operation Warp Speed initiative is rushing out a vaccine in record time, and the Trump administration said earlier this month that a vaccine will be available very soon.

Pharmaceutical giants Moderna and Pfizer announced earlier this month that they've developed vaccines that are over 90 percent effective, and are waiting for government approval.

"By the end of December, we expect to have about 40 million doses of these two vaccines available for distribution pending FDA authorization - enough to vaccinate about 20 million of our most vulnerable Americans," Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar told a press briefing last week.

But at the same time, 42 percent of Americans said they would not get vaccinated, most of them citing the rushed timeline, according to a recent Gallup poll.

A recent report from the Centre for Countering Digital Hate found that social media accounts held by anti-vaxxers have seen their followers grow by around 7.8 million since last year.

The report noted that 31 million people follow anti-vaccine groups on Facebook, with 17 million people subscribing to similar accounts on YouTube, as reported in The Lancet, a widely respected medical journal.

"Attention grabbing headlines with sensationalist content can attract even the savviest Internet users... As a result, content personalization algorithms can repeatedly expose people to the same or similar content and ads even on the basis of disinformation," argued the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, as reported in The Lancet.

Last year, a number of social media companies vowed to act against the anti-vaccine movement. Facebook said it would not promote content that contained misinformation. YouTube got rid of advertisements from anti-vaccine videos, and Twitter promised that health authorities would appear as first search results in topics related to vaccines in the United States and Britain.

Opposition to vaccines is not a new concept. Declining vaccines in the United States began in the 1800s when the smallpox vaccine was made available to large numbers, noted Healthline, a U.S. health website.

There was criticism of the vaccine based on sanitary, religious, and political objections, Healthline noted. Such opposition led to laws that made certain vaccines mandatory.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said vaccines are continually monitored for safety, and like any medication, vaccines can cause side effects, although those tend to be minor and disappear after a few days.

A decision not to immunize a child also involves risk and could put the child and others who come into contact with him or her at risk of contracting a potentially deadly disease, the CDC said on its website.

Dr. Francis Collins, who directs the National Institutes of Health, said in May that safety in vaccines is a major priority.

"I would not want people to think that we're cutting corners because that would be a big mistake. I think this is an effort to try to achieve efficiencies, but not to sacrifice rigor," Collins was quoted by the Associated Press as saying.

Last week, Collins told CNN that the development of the vaccine is "pretty amazing," remarking that prior to COVID-19, it took about eight years to develop a vaccine.

(For the latest China news, Please follow People's Daily on Twitter and Facebook)(Web editor: Wen Ying, Liang Jun)

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