One of the questions I’m asked most frequently is when we will have a Covid-19 vaccine. To that I say, the question is not when, but if. If we don’t have a vaccine, we don’t yet know how safe and effective it will be.

Given our well-documented difficulty developing coronavirus vaccines for SARS and MERS, and now the less than promising data from recent studies involving humans and nonhuman primates, we can’t be so sure that the current race to produce a Covid-19 vaccine will end in certain success. We don’t know whether the vaccine will offer sterilizing, long lasting immunity—as hoped—or only transient, partial protection, as seems more likely.

What we do know is that public acceptance of a Covid-19 vaccine will play an outsized role in our ability to get as many people vaccinated as possible—and to that end, it isn’t too early to begin planning our efforts to educate the public. As a new analysis published in JAMA makes clear, early planning and public education is a must. To proactively confront barriers to Covid-19 vaccine acceptance in the United States, its authors argue, we must ramp up public health education now.

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Originally published on Forbes (May 28, 2020)