A majority of Americans, 62%, believe political pressure from the Trump administration will cause the US Food and Drug Administration to rush approval of a coronavirus vaccine before Election Day on November 3, according to a new health-tracking poll from the Kaiser Family Foundation.
The KFF poll, conducted between August 28 and September 3, found 85% of Democrats, 61% of independents, and 35% of Republicans believe the FDA would cave to pressure from President Donald Trump and push through a Covid-19 vaccine before ensuring it is safe and effective.
More women than men — 70% compared to 55% — said they worried the FDA would rush approval of a vaccine, the poll found.
If a Covid-19 vaccine was ready and available for free before the upcoming election, just over half of respondents, 54%, said they would not get one, while 42% said they would. Breaking down the numbers: A majority of independents (56%) and Republicans (60%) said they wouldn’t get a Covid-19 vaccine, but half of Democrats said they would.
However, 81% of those surveyed said they don’t believe a coronavirus vaccine would be available before November 3.
Trump and members of his administration have suggested in recent weeks that a vaccine for the deadly virus could be available before November, and the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention asked states to prepare to distribute one. CNN has reported that Trump has cranked up the pressure on administration health officials to expedite work both on a coronavirus vaccine and on treatments that might signal to voters there is an end in sight to the life-altering pandemic that has imperiled his reelection prospects.
Overall, about 1 in 4 adults surveyed believe the FDA (39%) and the CDC (42%) are paying “too much attention” to politics “when it comes to reviewing and approving treatments for coronavirus or issuing guidelines and recommendations,” the KFF poll reported.
“Public skepticism about the FDA and the process of approving a vaccine is eroding public confidence even before a vaccine gets to the starting gate,” KFF President and CEO Drew Altman said in a statement Thursday.
The poll also revealed almost half of all adults have some misconceptions about Covid-19. One in 5 said “wearing a face mask is harmful to your health” and 1 in 4 believe hydroxychloroquine, a drug widely touted by Trump and shown in studies to be unhelpful in treating coronavirus, is effective.
Three-quarters of Republicans and one-quarter of Democrats have at least one misconception, compared to 46% of people who identify as independents, KFF reported.
“Politicizing basic facts like whether a mask can prevent coronavirus’ spread creates an environment where misinformation is easily shared and believed,” Mollyann Brodie, the executive director of KFF’s public opinion and survey research, said in a news release.
As Americans expressed a growing mistrust of federal health agencies, they were split along party lines when it came to public health leaders like Dr. Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, and Dr. Deborah Birx, the coordinator of the White House Coronavirus Task Force.
The poll found 86% of Democrats trusted Fauci to provide reliable information about the coronavirus, while 48% of Republicans reported trusting him. Overall, Fauci’s approval numbers dropped by 10% since April.
Birx, on the other hand, found more support among Republicans, at 70%, compared to just 44% of Democrats who said they trusted her to deliver reliable information about the virus.
The survey did uncover at least one optimistic trend on the pandemic front: An equal number of people, 38%, said the “worst is behind us” as said “the worst is yet to come,” which compares to 74% of survey respondents who said the “worst is yet to come” in April.