With any luck, sometime in the next several months, one of the COVID-19 vaccines now under development will be found safe and effective. Then the hard part begins.

Not only will governments be challenged by the logistics of getting enough of the vaccine, and getting it to enough of the population to make a difference, they’ll have to convince a lot of people to take it as well.

Worldwide, more than 170 vaccines are in development. More than 30 are in clinical trials. Just one, in Russia this week, has been approved, a move that was met with skepticism by the scientific community.

The U.S. government has promised about $9 billion to companies here in hopes that one of them is successful in creating an effective vaccine. Some of that money is used to pre-manufacture doses of vaccine candidates still in trials, so that they are ready for distribution if one of them works.

Even so, once a vaccine is ready, demand is expected to outstrip supply. There will be tough decisions about who should get one. Clearly, the most vulnerable Americans — the elderly and those will health conditions, workers in health care and other frontline jobs where the virus has spread previously — should be given priority.

And once mass manufacture makes supply no longer an issue, another one will arise.

A July poll found just 66% of respondents would be somewhat or extremely likely to take a vaccine, too low for herd immunity, when so many people in a community are protected against a disease that it dies out.

Some of those hesitant to take a vaccine are part of the growing number of Americans who are skeptical of them in general. Others don’t trust the Trump administration and worry that a vaccine will be rushed.

For the latter, scientists recommend transparency. Nearly 400 public health experts last week wrote the Food and Drug Administration to ask that it allow the vaccine-approval process to be complete and free from political considerations.

After all, President Trump has said a vaccine could be ready by Election Day, an optimistic assessment not based in reality, and the FDA already bent to his needs by authorizing the use of hydroxychloroquine to treat COVID-19 despite no evidence that it works.

The group also asked the FDA use its vaccine advisory committee to act as a watchdog on the process.

The Mills administration should follow the same advice as it formulates a vaccine distribution plan. Mainers should be clear on who is getting priority and why, to stave off any misconceptions that could lead to friction.

Maine, which has one of the lowest rates of childhood vaccinations in the country, is also planning a public awareness campaign, perhaps involving “universally respected” Maine figures, Dr. Nirav Shah of the Maine CDC told the Press Herald.

But even if all the necessary information shows that it is safe, many people will resist a COVID-19 vaccine, just as they have refused childhood vaccinations that have been proven safe and effective through decades of use.

Government and health leaders should reach out starting now to people who are skeptical of a coming vaccine in order to understand their concerns. In a time of fear, uncertainty, anger and political division, a little compassion can go a long way.

The point here isn’t to win an argument, but to get a safe, effective vaccine to as many people as possible. That work needs to start now.


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