Synopsis- As the country readies to implement its COVID-19 vaccination programme, vaccine hesitancy could be an issue that the government needs to address forthwith.
- Prime-Minister hailed the approval of two made in India COVID-19 vaccines by the drug regulator and said India is on the threshold of beginning the largest vaccination programme in the world.
- However, the COVID-19 vaccination intent is decreasing due to increasing hesitancy.
What is the general perception around the world regarding vaccine drive?
Following are the findings that validates the increasing Vaccine hesitancy.
- Recently, a survey with approximately 11,000 respondents was conducted in India, to understand the openness to take the vaccine,
- About 53 per cent of the respondent were unsure about taking COVID-19 vaccine.
- A survey by New Delhi’s citizen-survey platform Local–Circles found that about 69 per cent of respondents saw no urgent need to get immunized.
- Key reasons cited for hesitancy were limited information about efficacy, side-effects, and perceived high immunity level.
Moreover, COVID-19 vaccination intent is decreasing globally. Since August, intentions to get vaccinated have dropped in 10 of 15 countries, most of all China (down 12 points), Australia (down 9), Spain (down 8), and Brazil (down 7).
What is World Health Organization’s view on Vaccine Hesitancy?
The SAGE Working Group on Vaccine Hesitancy concluded that vaccine hesitancy refers to delay in acceptance or refusal of vaccination despite availability of vaccination services. Vaccine hesitancy is complex and context specific, varying across time, place and vaccines.
It is influenced by factors such as complacency, convenience and confidence [3C model].
- Complacency– Refers to a low perceived risk of vaccine-preventable diseases and therefore it is assumed vaccines are not needed. Other issues are considered more important.
- Convenience – Vaccination convenience is a significant factor that entails physical availability, affordability and willingness-to-pay. This continuum ranges from total acceptance to complete refusal.
- Confidence– Refers to a lack of trust in the effectiveness and safety of vaccines, the system that delivers them – including the reliability of the health professional – and/or the motivations of policy-makers who make determinations about vaccines.
What needs to be done to remove Vaccine Hesitancy?
Misinformation, specifically online, is a big threat to trust in Vaccines and their programs as proved by losses suffered by poultry sector due to erroneously linking consumption of chickens to the disease.
Communication strategies are critical for tracking, negotiating and shaping perceptions around the vaccines and the programme.
- First, strategies need to be shaped around four key themes- Product development, prioritization strategies, programme rollout activities, and AEFI (Adverse Effects Following Immunization) and AESI (Adverse Effects of Special Interest).
- Second, it is very important to give confidence to the public by discussing the robustness of various processes involved in drug/vaccine development such as clinical trial designs, conduct, monitoring, analysis, reporting and the regulatory reviews that happen before it is approved.
- This will make the public aware about the rigorous processes followed for clinical trials, and the approval, as followed by regulators.
Thus, communicating consistently, transparently, empathetically and proactively about uncertainty, risks and vaccine availability will contribute to building trust.