Who could convince you to take a coronavirus vaccine? The question came up the other night, when my wife and I were talking about some discouraging poll numbers that showed a lot of skepticism around what’s being touted as a medical miracle. Vaccination could end the pandemic if almost everybody gets it, but according to the Associated Press, about half the country is not on board.

“What if someone that everyone loves were to get vaccinated?” she said. “And then people would see it was OK.”

And who does everyone love?

“Tom Hanks?”

Probably not. He is a popular actor, but there are still a lot of people who can’t stand his movies and a not insignificant number of conspiracy theorists who believe that he enslaves children to harvest a life-extending chemical compound called adrenochrome. (This is, by the way, false.)

What about Oprah Winfrey?

She had a finger on the pulse of the nation a few years ago, when her daily TV show had millions of viewers. In 2004, she turned Leo Tolstoy’s “Anna Karenina” into a runaway best-seller. Not that Tolstoy didn’t help, but the book had been on the shelves for 127 years before Oprah put it in her book club. If she could do that for Russian literature, what could she do for a life-saving vaccine?

But fame is fickle. She left her show in 2011, and probably doesn’t still have the reach she had a decade ago.

The problem is that our culture is so fragmented there may not be any famous people who can reach everyone. Even the Kardashians, who are fantastically famous only for being famous, are complete unknowns to millions. I looked at a list of the world’s most popular celebrities, and half of them were international soccer players whose names mean nothing to me.

The question of being vaccinated is not a hard one for me. If the scientists at the Food and Drug Administration say that what we risk by getting vaccinated is far better than we risk by getting infected with coronavirus, I’m rolling up my sleeve.

And if that nice Dr. Fauci gives it the thumbs up, bonus. I’ll be there when its my turn, whenever that is.

But according to the AP poll, done in partnership with NORC Center for Public Affairs Research, it’s not such an easy question.

About a quarter of the country say they have concerns about the safety of the vaccines that are being rolled out in record time, and another quarter says they are not going to get theirs.

That scientific poll sounds a lot like an informal survey taken of Maine nursing home staff and residents’ families. That put the number of vaccine takers at 60 to 70 percent, which would not be enough to reduce the risks to the point that families could visit their loved ones again and life could go back to normal.

If only half of the country were vaccinated, it still won’t be safe to gather in indoor spaces, like bars and restaurants, because the virus would still be able to find enough hosts to keep a foothold and spread when opportunity strikes.

How do you convince half the people in a country our size that they should allow some chemical created in a faraway laboratory to be injected into their bodies?

Some would say the answer is to make all the data available and that would lead everyone to make the right and rational choice. I’m skeptical. I don’t think people work that way.

As much as we like to think that they are capable of sorting through the data and coming to their own conclusions, it’s really a question of trust.

I trust the scientists even though I don’t understand the science. I know that they are not always right, but I’m willing to take a chance.

If I were African American, and raised on true stories of medical experiments carried out by white doctors pretending to offer help, I might feel differently, however. And the polls show that Black Americans have higher levels of concern about the vaccine.

They also show that Republicans are twice as likely as Democrats to doubt the vaccine’s safety, which is strange because it is being developed and distributed by a Republican administration.

It seems like this is less of a science problem than a marketing challenge in an era of low social trust. Even with so many lives at stake, near-universal agreement on any question could be too much to ask.

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