Extra safety scrutiny planned as virus vaccine worries grow

FILE - In this May 4, 2020 photo provided by the University of Maryland School of Medicine, the first patient enrolled in Pfizer's COVID-19 coronavirus vaccine clinical trial at the University of Maryland School of Medicine in Baltimore, receives an injection. On top of rigorous final testing in tens of thousands of people, any COVID-19 vaccines cleared for widespread use will get additional safety evaluation as they're rolled out. (University of Maryland School of Medicine via AP)
FILE - In this May 4, 2020 photo provided by the University of Maryland School of Medicine, the first patient enrolled in Pfizer's COVID-19 coronavirus vaccine clinical trial at the University of Maryland School of Medicine in Baltimore, receives an injection. On top of rigorous final testing in tens of thousands of people, any COVID-19 vaccines cleared for widespread use will get additional safety evaluation as they're rolled out. (University of Maryland School of Medicine via AP) (University of Maryland School of Medicine)

Facing public skepticism about rushed COVID-19 vaccines, U.S. health officials are planning extra scrutiny of the first people vaccinated when shots become available — an added safety layer experts call vital.

A new poll suggests those vaccine fears are growing. With this week's pause of a second major vaccine study because of an unexplained illness — and repeated tweets from President Donald Trump that raise the specter of politics overriding science — a quarter of Americans say they won't get vaccinated. That's a slight increase from 1 in 5 in May.

The poll from The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research found only 46% of Americans want a COVID-19 vaccine and another 29% are unsure.

More striking, while Black Americans have been especially hard-hit by COVID-19, just 22% say they plan to get vaccinated compared with 48% of white Americans, the AP-NORC poll found.

“I am very concerned about hesitancy regarding COVID vaccine,” said Dr. William Schaffner, a vaccine specialist at Vanderbilt University who says even the primary care doctors who'll need to recommend vaccinations have questions.

“If the politicians would stand back and let the scientific process work, I think we’d all be better off,” he added.

The stakes are high: Shunning a COVID-19 shot could derail efforts to end the pandemic — while any surprise safety problems after one hits the market could reverberate into distrust of other routine vaccines.

On top of rigorous final testing in tens of thousands of people, any COVID-19 vaccines cleared for widespread use will get additional safety evaluation as they're rolled out. Among plans from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: Texting early vaccine recipients to check how they're feeling, daily for the first week and then weekly out to six weeks.