WHO defines Vaccine hesitancy as a delay in acceptance or refusal of vaccines despite the availability of vaccination services. It is complex and context-specific varying across time, place, and vaccines (1). Vaccine hesitancy has been reported in more than 90% of countries in the world.
There are various reasons for vaccine hesitancy some leading issues are Misinformation, Religious propaganda that vaccines contain microbes or animal-derived products or chemicals which is forbidden by religious laws, digital divide, Inconvenience in accessing vaccines, Social media which enhances fear in people for example there were rumors regarding the polio vaccine that it can cause infertility and illness and was not effective. The pictures don’t change during the Covid19 Pandemic, presently people are hesitant to take up vaccines especially in rural areas where less awareness is available. Vaccination is preventive care rather than a curative one on the contrary vaccines administered on a healthy person may lead to occasional fever, body aches, etc which eventually increases fear among people.
The achievements we have made for centuries in the sector of healthcare are threatened by vaccine hesitancy which can drastically increase the burden of infectious diseases. A collaborative effort from all the stakeholders the doctors, parents, officials, government, social media giants, civil society to minimize misinformation and myths throughout the society. Also, influential personalities and celebrities should come forward to dispel myths on vaccine hesitancy.
The need of the hour is to educated people about Biotechnology involved in vaccine formation. Vaccines contain dead viruses to make our immune system familiar with the virus for future preparations in case of being infected with the virus. Vaccines helped in reducing the risks of considering viruses deadly. Trust factor should be build up between the vaccine manufacturer and the people where all the information regarding side effects of vaccines should be clearly mentioned Influential personalities.
India, a diverse country can combat vaccine hesitancy with community engagement at the local level which invokes trust and countering misinformation about the covid19 vaccine. Sachin Patki, the principal in a primary school in Biladi, a village in Maharashtra is been in news has been fighting against the misinformation about the vaccines. Every day he dressed up in different costumes of a policeman or a doctor or a religious deity to educate villagers about covid appropriate behavior and importance of vaccines. Recently WHO put forth the BSD (behavioral and social drivers) vaccination model which emphasizes “motivation” as a leading cause in human psychology for a vaccination drive. Countries like the US and Israel successfully vaccinated a large number of people by incentivizing and motivating their citizens. Unfortunately in India misinformation, lack of awareness, false beliefs, and myths lead to fear about the harmful effects of vaccines.
Still many initiatives were taken by the government on the central, state as well as a local levels such as Indore set up crisis management committees at all levels with public representatives to engage people, the use of local language in spreading awareness via radio, television channels, and regional newspapers. Even local artists can be encouraged to innovate music, murals, dance, and drama for eg; in tribal districts of Chhattisgarh, folk songs have been used to highlight the use of vaccination. The network of ASHA workers who have been trusted locally by the people can successfully influence the importance of vaccination, districts of Maharashtra and Jharkhand have been successfully using these networks. In India the concept of digital divide emerges which is visible in vaccination programs as well, a long-term solution to bridge the digital divide is the need, besides self-registration, the on-camp vaccination should be done on a large scale. Even the urban people, who are well educated or ‘aware’ population are hesitant or refuse to take up vaccines.
Addressing vaccine hesitancy in India requires to build a transparent and honest system, create awareness on what could be the side effects of vaccines and how that can be managed, health authorities should answer questions taken up by the people and provide answers to the best of their abilities, consistent and meaningful efforts to gain the confidence of communities and meet their expectations.