Pharma's reputation gains persist through pandemic, bolstered by vaccine makers' pledge: Harris Poll

Americans love a good pledge. At least, that's the message the pharma industry and nine COVID-19 vaccine makers, who jointly pledged a safe and effective development and approval process, are getting.

Just a couple weeks later, The Harris Poll has found that among people familiar with the pledge surveyed last weekend, 55% had a more positive perception of the nine vaccine companies involved.

RELATED: Pfizer, AZ, Moderna and more pledge not to rush COVID-19 vaccines

A halo effect had another 51% of respondents feeling positive about the development of COVID-19 vaccines in general and 49% positive about the entire pharma industry. Forty-three percent even claimed an improved view of the FDA. In total, 68% of those polled knew about the vaccine makers' pledge.

“Those are high numbers, both in terms of recall and in terms of positive view,” The Harris Poll Managing Director Rob Jekielek said. “I think they’re even providing the FDA with some real science cover.”

The survey follows an early September agreement from CEOs at AstraZeneca, BioNTech, GlaxoSmithKline, Johnson & Johnson, Merck, Moderna, Novavax, Pfizer and Sanofi not to seek approvals or emergency use authorizations for their vaccine candidates without conclusive positive data.

The drugmakers will "only submit for approval or emergency use authorization after demonstrating safety and efficacy through a phase 3 clinical study that is designed and conducted to meet requirements of expert regulatory authorities such as FDA," they said at the time.

RELATED: Pharma's reputation has soared during COVID-19 pandemic, poll finds

Overall, good sentiments about pharma continued to rise, with 54% of Americans now rating the industry positively. That’s 22 percentage points higher than its January showing of 32% before the pandemic began. Pharma positivity grew to 48% in May and went up again to 53% in July, according to Harris Poll’s ongoing surveys.

Pharma notably stands alone as the only industry to sustain reputation gains through the pandemic. While other industries—such as grocery, retail, technology, consumer products and financial services—also rose during the spring and summer, most spiked in May and have since flattened or dropped back to typical pre-COVID-19 levels.

That doesn’t mean people think negatively of those industries, but rather that their views have generally returned to what they were before the pandemic.

What do those trends mean for pharma? There's an opportunity to continue to hold onto reputation gains through continued positive consumer perceptions—although, as Jekielek noted, the good numbers are only as good as the present.

“Does the data guarantee that it continues? Absolutely not, but so far, pharma has uniquely done so,” he said.