The hesitation on vaccine use may become a major hurdle in the COVID-19 war. Many individuals around the globe expressed safety concerns, which can fuel unwillingness to take COVID-19 vaccines.
The hesitation of people on COVID-19 vaccines was represented by different surveys. These surveys found significant portions of the populations in Europe and the US unwilling to be vaccinated. In Brazil, some people opposed the China vaccine while protesters in South Africa protested clinical trials. If concerns over safety could not be resolved, efforts in disseminating COVID-19 vaccines could be hindered.
The Growing Vaccine Hesitancy
According to the World Health Organization (WHO) of the United Nations, vaccine hesitancy is one factor of reduced vaccine uptake in communities. Because more people do not participate in immunization programs, more individuals are at risk of vaccine-preventable infections. The hesitation decreases the herd immunity threshold and increases the chance of vulnerable populations to infections. People with chronic illnesses and compromised immune systems are at the greatest risk. This is because herd immunity may be their last defense from diseases at a community level.
The WHO developed programs to address vaccine hesitancy. These programs use a unique model to improve vaccination efforts. The model includes detection of the perceived risk of vaccine use, identification of social elements, determination of motivation and unwillingness, recognition of practical issues, and acknowledgment of consent, delay, and refusal. Even if the model cannot convince everyone to get immunized, it may counter misinformation.
The main goal of the model is to protect the next generation: children. Vaccines have protected millions of children from debilitating diseases, such as measles and polio. Unfortunately, parents may doubt vaccines due to safety concerns. But if these concerns are addressed correctly, many children will receive benefits from vaccines. One benefit is preventing potentially life-changing adverse outcomes from infections like permanent disability.
Vaccine Hesitancy Spikes in COVID-19 Pandemic
The COVID-19 pandemic has claimed nearly 800,000 lives and infected over 21 million people worldwide. An effective vaccine is the best solution to stop community transmission, while effective treatments are a must to save more patients. While there are several experimental vaccines in clinical trials, not everyone is optimistic about them. The most common concern is safety in using a COVID-19 vaccine. And if a person does not feel safe, they will be unwilling to be vaccinated even for free.
"What the question probably should have said is, will you have the Covid vaccine, will you be first to have it? And of course, I think that the answer for that will be no, I'll wait 'til everyone else has had it. There's always doubt among the anti-vax[xers], but there's now a sufficient doubt among this undecided population," said Neil Johnson, a physicist at George Washington University, quoted American news CNN.
Johnson revealed that four common objections exist against vaccines: safety, need, trust, and uncertainty. Safety refers to the side effects of vaccines. Need refers to the requirement to get vaccinated. Trust refers to the confidence in pharmaceutical companies. And finally, uncertainty refers to perceived doubt in the science of vaccine research.
Scott Ratzan, co-leader of the CONVINCE campaign, said that the preliminary results highlighted around 70% of British and US respondents agreeing to a COVID-19 vaccine. That left about 30% unwilling to take a vaccine. But in the recent poll by the American newsgroup Associated Press and NORC Center for Public Affairs Research, about 31% of respondents were undecided of getting immunized. Around 49% would say yes and 20% would say no to a vaccine. In terms of vaccine availability, only 20% of respondents expect a vaccine before the end of this year.
In the July 17 to 20, 2020 survey by King's College London and Ipsos, a market research firm, 53% of 2,237 UK respondents would likely be willing to be vaccinated against COVID-19. Out of the remaining 47%, 16% or one in every six people were unlikely or definitely not willing to be vaccinated. That was found greater in different population groups. Among those who believe face masks are bad for health, it was 37%. Among those who believe that masks do not reduce COVID-19 spread, it was 34%. And among those who think that the government uses masks as a way to control them, it was 34%.
The Ipsos survey showed that 30% of respondents were certain to get a vaccine if its available. About 23% were very likely and 20% were fairly likely to get the vaccine. However, around 9% were not very likely, 3% were not at all likely, and 4% were definitely not getting a vaccine if its available. Approximately 11% were unsure if they want the vaccine or not.
When it comes to vaccinating the population against COVID-19, 1% said it might be possible in about a month. Around 4% said it is possible in three months and 14% said it is possible in six months. A timeline of 12 months to vaccinate everyone got the highest vote at 24%. While 4% said that the entire population would never be vaccinated. An estimated 15% were unsure.
The survey also asked them if they were interested in getting the flu vaccine this coming winter. About 27% were certain, 13% were very likely, and 13% were fairly likely. While 16% were not very likely, 10% were not at all likely, and 12% were definitely not going to get flu shots. Around 9% were unsure if they want to be immunized against the seasonal flu.
Additionally, UK respondents were asked if children could spread COVID-19 as adults do. About 35% agreed that children could spread the disease as adults do. But 44% disagreed and 21% were unsure if children could spread the illness as adults do. Per generation, only 31% of millennials and generation X believe that children could spread COVID-19 as adults do. While 40% of baby boomers and 45% of pre-war generation believe that children could spread the disease as easily as adults.
In this pandemic, trust appears to be the biggest factor in vaccine hesitancy. Since the world needs a vaccine right away, many may think that companies are cutting corners to get their vaccine approved immediately.