People have been hoping for a vaccine to combat the coronavirus since not long after the outbreak started, said Samantha Vanderslott of The Conversation, a news and analysis website. President Donald Trump, who was a former vaccine skeptic, demanded a vaccine. He stated, “Do me a favor, speed it up, speed it up.” How about those who are critical and oppose vaccines? Some celebrities and high-profile individuals adamantly expressed their displeasure in having a vaccine against COVID-19.
British rapper MIA wrote in a Tweet: “If I have to choose the vaccine or chip I’m gonna choose death. YALA.” MIA was lambasted from her followers who disagreed with her perspective. While anti-vaxxers will continue to assert their own interest, those who are in support of vaccination are ready to raise their voices for the betterment of society.
Surveys On People’s Perceptions of Vaccines
In a 2019 survey by Wellcome, an independent global charitable foundation, 79% of people across the globe agreed that vaccines are safe and 84% said they are effective. 22% of people in Western Europe disagreed that vaccines are safe while 17% of those in Eastern Europe disagreed that vaccines are effective. 33% of inhabitants in France disagreed that vaccines are safe while 10% disagreed they are important for kids.
American analytics and advisory company Gallup found in a survey that 84% of all Americans were less likely to say it is important that parents vaccinate their children in 2019 (versus 84% in 2015 and 94% in 2001), reported RJ Reinhart. When asked if vaccines are more dangerous than the diseases they are designed to prevent or not, 86% of all Americans said “No, not more dangerous” unlike 11% of those who answered “Yes, more dangerous.” The data came from a survey conducted by Gallup from December 2015, 2019.
With regard to education level, 15% (versus 82% who answered “No, not more dangerous”) of those who had some college education and 14% (versus 83%) of those who were high school graduates or less were likely to say vaccines are more dangerous. However, those who were college grads (95% versus 4% who answered “Yes, more dangerous") and postgrads (94% versus 6%) answered “No, not more dangerous.”
While most Americans perceived vaccines as less dangerous than the diseases they prevent, 62% said the government should mandate all parents to have their kids vaccinated, down from the 81% who believed that the government should require vaccination, as stated in a 1991 Princeton Survey Research Poll.
On the other hand, 45% of all Americans believed that vaccines did not cause autism among children compared with 10% of those who believed that vaccines cause autism. The former was up from 41% while the latter figure showed a slight increase from 2015’s 6%. 46% of Americans were unsure, down from 52%.
73% of postgraduates believed that vaccines do not cause autism compared with college grads (61%), those with some college experience (42%), and high graduates or less (28%). 60% of high school graduates or less were more likely to be unsure unlike postgraduates (22%), college graduates (32%), and those with college experience (47%).
Doubts, Misinformation, and Disinformation: The Enemies of Vaccines
Stephanie, who is an American mother-of-three and a member of anti-vaxxer groups online, said she is 50:50 on taking a vaccine if a person is said to be afflicted with the respiratory disease caused by COVID-19, stated Victoria Waldersee of Reuters, a business and financial news. However, Stephanie said she is scared of drawing criticism from anti-vaxxers.
Expressing her frustration, Stephanie told Reuters by phone from the US that the anti-vaxx community is downplaying the pandemic, adding, “We’re all being affected by this virus, schools closing, young people in hospital, and they still say it’s a hoax.”
It’s hard to assess the public’s reaction to the coronavirus vaccine at this stage. If you look back at previous vaccines rolled out in the past, you will get to see a myriad of reactions from people. For instance, individuals demanded a polio vaccine in the 1950s considering the risk was present. During the 2009 H1N1 “swine flu” outbreak, there were also concerns raised with the new vaccine being “rushed” or “not tested well.”
Like any other vaccine introduced, a vaccine to fight off the coronavirus will have to undergo safety and effectiveness tests. However, negative comments in the media regard the “speed and rigor” of trials is something we should be worried about, including calling trial participants “guinea pigs.”
Alarmingly, the spread of misinformation and disinformation may make individuals doubt how safe and useful a vaccine is. This can be rooted in the skepticism of those who are developing a new vaccine. Doubts and skepticism could halt vaccination campaigns. In 2017, a rumor that vaccination would make kids impotent stymied the vaccination campaign launched by the Indian government, which aimed to introduce new measles and rubella vaccine in five states.
Addressing the Risks of Misinformation and Disinformation
Health authorities and governments should be prepared to debunk false or misleading information. Social media websites are cognizant of the role they play in eliminating COVID-19 fake news. They also met with government leaders early on in the pandemic. As for private messaging such as WhatsApp, email, text messages, there is limited oversight with regard to stopping fake news from spreading.
WhatsApp recently said it will limit “frequent forwards” by restricting the times a text can be forwarded to the user’s recipients by five. However, despite this measure, the general public still needs to be aware of getting information about COVID-19 from credible and trustworthy sources. We should also do our part in calling them out for spreading fake news.
Never Ignore Routine Immunization Programs
We should not neglect these programs despite the viewpoints shared by anti-vaxxers. These immunization programs protect us against vaccine-preventable diseases. Indeed, it is harder to routinely vaccinate the public if health resources are allotted elsewhere.
It is also more challenging to vaccinate oneself considering the difficulty or reluctance to go to a local school or clinic. But maximizing the use of existing vaccines will be crucial to curb future outbreaks other than the coronavirus. While anti-vaxxers balk at the idea of vaccines, virologists conjectured the erosion of the anti-vaxx movement considering the widespread support of developing a vaccine to combat the virus.
The COVID-19 outbreak should never be downplayed. Instead, the public should be educated about vaccines and their local area’s vaccination programs. Given the support for developing a COVID-19, we can expect the anti-vaxx movement to weaken and finally erode.