Hesitance of COVID-19 vaccination: how to tackle with effective communications strategies

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This article was exclusively written for The European Sting by Mr. Anthony Collins, a third year Medical Student from UWI Mona in Kingston, Jamaica. He is affiliated with the International Federation of Medical Students Associations (IFMSA), cordial partner of The Sting. The opinions expressed in this piece belong strictly to the writers and do not necessarily reflect IFMSA’s view on the topic, nor The European Sting’s one.


The COVID-19 pandemic took a toll on all aspects of health and exposed the inadequacies in our healthcare systems. This however had provided opportunities for innovative ways to overcome adversity; one such way being the MRNA vaccines developed using MRNA technology in the works for decades. Many were hopeful it would change the tide while others were hesitant on the matter. According to the CDC, approximately 2.69%-32.33% of people in different states in the US were hesitant about the COVID-19 vaccine. This can be attributed to factors such as complacency, convenience and confidence in the vaccine. These factors delay transmission of the virus as it creates new variants which become harder to treat and causes a greater loss of human life.

The aforementioned factors can be approached from a human perspective as empathy, effective communication and a non-judgemental environment should serve as the medium in which the issue is resolved. Ascertaining their understanding of the virus and how vaccines work then filling in the gaps will allow them to feel more empowered and in control as they can now make fully informed decisions. This will address complacency as the false sense of security that comes from addressing their other health issues will keep them COVID-19 free will be shattered. It also allows for more deliberate action regarding their health to be taken. For example, in Jamaica many ads explained that the virus doesn’t discriminate based on health so vaccination is paramount.

Convenience plays a major role as the vaccine being out of reach physically, financially or not fitting into their schedule will deter people as it is not deemed worthy of their time. Addressing this will reduce vaccine hesitancy as it will be seen as more within their reach. This can be done via conversation with the target population to address their needs such as mobile vaccination units to come to them or finding financial support to afford the vaccine. Leveraging trusted vaccine endorsers will assist greatly with this as each circumstance is taken into account. For example, in Jamaica many vaccination sites were set up all across the island by the MOH (Ministry of Health) to reach those who had difficulties accessing the vaccine.

Confidence in vaccines is arguably the biggest factor contributing to hesitancy. Trust in the system and the policymakers who decide when vaccines are needed are at an all-time low. This can be attributed to lack of transparency as well as not addressing adverse events in a real time manner. Being on the same page as the people taking them will build trust needed to preserve everyone’s health.

In summary, hesitancy can be tackled by understanding the people and addressing their needs individually to end this pandemic. Effective communication is key in this war against disease.

References

Vaccine Hesitancy for COVID-19 | Data | Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (cdc.gov)

About the author

Anthony Collins is a third year Medical Student from UWI Mona in Kingston, Jamaica and a member of JAMSA Jamaica (a member of IFMSA). He is the Administrative Director for the Standing Committee of Research Exchange and Public Relations Officer for the Standing Committee of Medical Education and the Local Committee of the Standing Committee of Professional Exchange. He is very passionate about research, forensics and pathology and therefore spends his time consuming content related to those areas. Outside of those fields he practices mindfulness and takes joy in the finer things in life.

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