- Scientists have mapped out five ways to deal with vaccine hesitancy
- Increasing public confidence in vaccination can be improved with transparency and engagement
- It also essential to tackle systematic inequalities when addressing vaccine hesitancy
The worldwide rolling out of Covid-19 vaccination programmes has not been without hiccups. Barriers such as vaccine hesitancy have been shown to impede efforts to protect people against severe disease and death.
A recent report by Health24 defined vaccine hesitancy as a delay in accepting or refusing to take vaccines despite their availability.
It is caused by several factors such as lack of confidence, sociodemographic misinformation and conspiracy theories which are often spread online, including through social media.
To find solutions to combat this hurdle, experts published a five-pronged strategy in the Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine. They called it the Five Cs: confidence, complacency, convenience, communication and context.
The authors of the review say that public confidence in the safety and efficacy of the Covid-19 jab is crucial in creating demand for it.
People should be aware that side effects like blood clots are not common and that their chances of developing the condition may be up to 10 times higher when infected with Covid-19 than getting it due to vaccination and “for most people the benefits of vaccine vastly outweigh the risk”.
Experts write that it is crucial to engage in transparent dialogue that respects people’s concerns and acknowledges uncertainty to boost confidence in the vaccines.
Experts say that complacency is significantly linked to fewer vaccinations. When people perceive their risk of being infected by the virus as low, or think that if they are infected, it would be a mild case, they tend to let their guard down.
The scientists highlight that even people who seem to be low-risk need to be engaged with risk communication to facilitate informed decision making.
They also emphasise the societal benefits of population-level immunity and the protection it offers to those who are vulnerable, their families and friends.
The evidence shows the importance of well-planned and convenient vaccination delivery. This means hosting vaccination sites at places that people can easily access or at central points such as schools. They say that data show that “more people expected a longer wait and more inconvenience than they actually experienced”.
Living in the era of social media has made access to information easy. But it has also opened gaps for misinformation. Experts say that misinformation feeds on people’s fears anxieties, especially anti-vaccination conspiracy theories.
Open and transparent dialogue with the public will address concerns about the vaccines and provide evidence of how well vaccines have worked in the past to prevent illness.
Building an understanding of the Covid-19 vaccine involves an integrated strategy that includes ethnicity, religion, occupation and socioeconomic status.
According to the experts, it’s vital that structural factors such as systemic racism and access barriers are addressed to curb low uptake.
Marginalised people tend to have a low uptake of Covid-19 vaccines, which means that individual needs must be taken care of to deal with inequality gaps.WATCH | How to vax a nation - a dummy’s guide to getting a Covid-19 jab