Nearly a third of Americans believe that it is either "probably" or "definitely" true that a coronavirus vaccine exists and is being withheld, according to a new study by the Democracy Fund and the UCLA Nationscape Project, in partnership with USA Today. "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, the research director at the Democracy Fund Voter Study Group. "That's a pretty dark type of thought to be floating around the public."
While there are as many as 150 different vaccines in various stages of development at this point, a COVID-19 vaccination will only be ready in 12 to 18 months "if we're really lucky," Seth Berkley, the head of the Gavi Vaccine Alliance, a global immunization partnership, told AFP on Friday. He added that "one of the challenges" of this particular pandemic is that "we don't know if we can make a vaccine … we have no proof of concept yet."
Still, the Democracy Fund/UCLA Nationscape Project study found that many such unfounded beliefs have become widespread among the American electorate, including that some 44 percent of voters think it is probable that the virus was created in a lab, while another 48 percent think the U.S is "concealing" the true number of COVID-19 deaths, a belief that is held by more than half of Democrats.
"Not all of this is necessarily conspiracy-thinking," argued Griffin. "Some of it might just might purely be misunderstanding or things that people don't know yet, a lack of education."
The survey was conducted as part of a large-scale survey of the American electorate, which will be ongoing through the 2020 election cycle. The latest results came from a sampling of 6,300 Americans between April 2 and 8, and has a margin of error of 2.2 percent. You can read more of the results here.