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Patience Required: Consumers Will Wait For Vaccine To Return To Stores And Dining

Consumer confidence got a big lift on Monday (Nov. 9) on news that Pfizer and BioNTech‘s ongoing COVID-19 vaccine trial has proven 90 percent effective in fighting the virus. As PYMNTS research‘ has found since March, this development will be a major factor in consumers possibly returning to in-store retailing and on-premise dining.

“I’ve been in vaccine development for 35 years,” William Gruber, Pfizer’s senior vice president of vaccine clinical research and development, told health and medical news provider STAT. “I’ve seen some really good things. This is extraordinary. This really bodes well for us being able to get a handle on the epidemic and get us out of this situation.”

While the results are encouraging, health experts caution that there is still a lot of work ahead to actually manufacture the vaccine at scale, distribute it and finally inject the medicine (two shots in two weeks) into patients. To that point, experts said the next step will come in the third week of November, when the drug companies release safety and side effect data on half of the patients who received the vaccine at least two months ago.

Although Pfizer and other drug companies around the world have been working nonstop for the past eight months to develop a safe and effective vaccine for a virus that has killed 1.3 million people, including 240,000 Americans, there are scientific limitations as to how fast the process can actually proceed.

While We Wait

The vaccine trial progress comes at a time when the world is facing a third major surge in positive case counts, hospitalizations and deaths, a grim reality that has also seen lockdowns and other travel restrictions starting to rise again.

Until there is a vaccine, research shows people will lack the confidence they need to resume their pre-pandemic way of life. According to PYMNTS’ Great Reopening report, U.S. consumers think their normal routines will be disrupted for longer than originally expected, and that the average consumer is still highly concerned about the risks of leaving home. In terms of a vaccine, PYMNTS analysis shows that 48.8 percent of consumers required a vaccine to be available before they would return to their routines, up from 40.5 percent on March 27 and 39.7 percent on March 17.

In the meantime, individual industries are launching their own initiatives to shore up confidence and bolster business. Airlines, for example, have repeatedly called for expansion of pre-flight rapid COVID testing regimes that would screen passengers immediately before boarding.

“We’re not just waiting for customers to come to us,” American Airlines President Robert Isom said last month. “We’re taking steps to open travel through pre-flight COVID testing,” he added, calling it “an important step that will further boost people’s confidence to travel.”

While these testing programs have been rolled out on a very limited basis by a few airlines on a few routes, the cash-strapped travel companies have said federal aid is needed for widespread implementation of the program.

Although the world is united in its desire to turn the page on the pandemic, the response to a so-called cure is not likely to be uniform. As much as markets celebrated the latest vaccine news, companies that have enabled the digital shift and work-from-home trend to be a reality actually fell on the news, including video conferencing leader Zoom.

Virologists also pointed to the likelihood that things could change, and noted that Pfizer’s update was delivered in a news release, not a peer-reviewed medical journal, as well as the fact that it is one of 11 late-stage vaccine trials, including four in the United States.

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