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Approximately one-third of Americans believe a vaccine for the novel coronavirus exists, but is being withheld, according to a survey by USA Today.
There is no evidence that a vaccine already exits and is being withheld.
The survey also found at least one-third of Americans also doubt other conclusions about the virus’ reaches and health risks despite information from national and global experts.
As cities and states across the US deploy official lockdown measures to address ongoing outbreaks, misinformation has spread online and through statements by figures like President Donald Trump.
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Nearly one-third of Americans believe there is an existing coronavirus vaccine that is being withheld, according to a USA Today survey.
The survey, which the outlet conducted in coordination with the Democracy Fund + UCLA Nationscape Project, found 29% said “it’s either probably or definitely true that a vaccine that prevents coronavirus infection exists and is being withheld.” Additionally, 32% said they believe treatment that cures coronavirus infection exists but is being withheld.
“To see about a third of people give that some level of, ‘Yeah, that might be true,’ that was pretty shocking to me,” said Robert Griffin, research director for the Democracy Fund Voter Study Group, according to USA Today. “That’s a pretty dark type of thought to be floating around the public. There’s an undercurrent of a lack of trust in society, a lack of trust in elites.”
US officials have emphasized the need for a vaccine in recent weeks as the next step beyond social distancing as a measure to address the likely “seasonal” revival of the coronavirus as the country reopens towards the fall.
There is no existing approved vaccine or treatment for the novel coronavirus. Though current trials are in promising, but early, stages of treating volunteers, experts including Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, have said a vaccine is at least 12 months away from being widely available.
As experts scramble for answers, misinformation has surfaced online and in the White House
The survey was conducted from a sample of more than 6,300 people from April 2 to 8. Since then, protests against official policies have popped up in cities and states across the US.
Around one-third of respondents also said they believed the coronavirus is probably or definitely being “exaggerated” for political purposes and believe the coronavirus is no more dangerous than the seasonal flu for people under 30 years old.
The apparent doubts found in the survey are similar to baseless theories floated by President Donald Trump including unproven treatments and said the US is investigating if an accident at a Wuhan, China laboratory is responsible for the origin of the coronavirus.
The survey found 44% of Americans overall believe the coronavirus was probably created in a lab. The outlet suggests their findings differ according to political alignment, as of the believing respondents, 50% were Republicans and 37% were Democrats.
Despite the doubts painted by answers to the survey, USA Today reported that according to the Democracy Fund + UCLA Nationscape Project, “the public is generally following social distancing measures recommended by experts.”
The findings come in a particularly critical time for expert guidance as 16 states are set to begin reopening from their coronavirus lockdown measures next week.
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