Vaccine hesitancy is the delay in acceptance or refusal of vaccination, where vaccination services are available. It’s a diverse phenomenon: people may have different degrees of hesitancy, and may refuse some vaccines but agree to others. In 2019, the World Health Organization identified vaccine hesitancy as one of the 10 greatest threats to global health. It is very worrying because it poses significant risks not only to the hesitant individual but also to the wider community.
Vaccine hesitancy has resulted in outbreaks of vaccine preventable diseases. For example there were measles outbreaks in Europe and North America between 2018 and 2020. There was a polio vaccine boycott in Nigeria in 2003 and 2004. And COVID-19 is rapidly becoming a pandemic of unvaccinated people.
Many factors contribute to hesitancy towards COVID-19 vaccines. But the general concerns are about safety, efficacy and novelty. The pandemic has brought a lot of uncertainty and rapid change. There’s also been an explosion of information and misinformation about the virus, the disease and the vaccines. Along with concerns specific to COVID-19, some people are opposed to vaccines generally.
In today’s episode of Pasha, Charles Shey Wiysonge, director of Cochrane South Africa, and Sara Cooper, a senior scientist at Cochrane South Africa, both at the South African Medical Research Council, take us through their research on vaccine hesitancy and strategies to overcome it. They say it is crucial to address people’s legitimate concerns and provide balanced and transparent information. This must include potential adverse effects, evidence gaps and uncertainties surrounding the vaccine and the virus. Information must be more local and offered in a way people can understand. It would also be beneficial to integrate vaccination efforts with other social and economic programmes.
“patient does not agree to put the vaccine, vaccination. anti-vaccination” by nishka Rozhkova found on Shutterstock