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Most Americans cannot or will not use COVID-19 contact tracing apps: Poll

More than half of all Americans either do not own smartphones or would not use apps backed by Alphabet Inc's Google and Apple Inc to trace who has been exposed to the new coronavirus

April 30, 2020 / 12:01 PM IST
Image: Reuters

Image: Reuters

More than half of all Americans either do not own smartphones or would not use apps backed by Alphabet Inc's Google and Apple Inc to trace who has been exposed to the new coronavirus, according to a poll by the Washington Post and the University of Maryland released on Wednesday.

The two tech companies have been working with public health experts and researchers to write apps that people can use to notify those they have come in contact with if they come down with COVID-19, the respiratory disease caused by the new coronavirus.

Contract tracing is deemed necessary to reopen the U.S. economy, which has been hard hit by shutdowns aimed at slowing the spread of the disease which has killed more than 58,000 Americans.

Apps require a smartphone and only 82% of Americans said they had one, the poll found. Of those, only half said they would definitely or probably use such an app.

Much of the scepticism is based on concern about Google and Apple, the poll found.

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COVID-19 Vaccine

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How does a vaccine work?

A vaccine works by mimicking a natural infection. A vaccine not only induces immune response to protect people from any future COVID-19 infection, but also helps quickly build herd immunity to put an end to the pandemic. Herd immunity occurs when a sufficient percentage of a population becomes immune to a disease, making the spread of disease from person to person unlikely. The good news is that SARS-CoV-2 virus has been fairly stable, which increases the viability of a vaccine.

How many types of vaccines are there?

There are broadly four types of vaccine — one, a vaccine based on the whole virus (this could be either inactivated, or an attenuated [weakened] virus vaccine); two, a non-replicating viral vector vaccine that uses a benign virus as vector that carries the antigen of SARS-CoV; three, nucleic-acid vaccines that have genetic material like DNA and RNA of antigens like spike protein given to a person, helping human cells decode genetic material and produce the vaccine; and four, protein subunit vaccine wherein the recombinant proteins of SARS-COV-2 along with an adjuvant (booster) is given as a vaccine.

What does it take to develop a vaccine of this kind?

Vaccine development is a long, complex process. Unlike drugs that are given to people with a diseased, vaccines are given to healthy people and also vulnerable sections such as children, pregnant women and the elderly. So rigorous tests are compulsory. History says that the fastest time it took to develop a vaccine is five years, but it usually takes double or sometimes triple that time.

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Just 43% of smartphone users polled expressed "a great deal" or "a good amount" of trust in Google and Apple and other tech companies, while 47% expressed trust in health insurers, 56% in universities and 57% in public health agencies, the poll found.

Forty-seven percent of those polled believed that U.S. President Donald Trump's handling of the pandemic was "good" or "excellent" while 52% had a more negative view.

Support was widespread for measures to enforce social distancing. Sixty-six percent of those polled said restrictions on businesses were "appropriate" and 64% approved of current limits on public gatherings.

Those who did not find the restrictions appropriate were divided between wanting them relaxed or toughened.
Reuters
first published: Apr 30, 2020 11:58 am

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