Vaccine Hesitancy and the Strategies to Address it

(Credit: Unsplash)

This article was exclusively written for The European Sting by Mr. Daniel Gizaw, a 22-year-old 5th year medical student at Addis Ababa University and resides in Ethiopia. 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.

Vaccine hesitancy is currently one of the biggest issues we are facing. As most of the world has come out of the lockdown, vaccinations have been key in ensuring that life can go on as usual. Therefore, there have been international wide vaccination promotions and vaccine mandates to get everyone vaccinated.

However, even if everyone wanted the lockdown to end, not everyone wanted to get vaccinated. The pushback from people who didn’t want to be vaccinated grew stronger the more mandatory vaccination came. But what elicited this visceral reaction? In a society, where vaccines were once considered normal and necessary, no one would have imagined a substantial group would decline vaccination against such a deadly pandemic.

The reason for vaccine hesitancy isn’t as black-and-white as some people assume it to be. There are a variety of reasons behind the vaccine hesitancy. The main causes are miscommunication and misinformation. The pandemic has been riddled with miscommunication and misinformation since its early days.

Starting from the method of transmission to calling it a pandemic, there has been various conflicting information released from “reputable” sources including WHO and the CDC.  This is to be expected as new information came to light every day which changed what we previously thought we knew about the disease. Coupled with this, various false information about the virus and vaccine side effects were released every day in such a large volume it caused information overload and people could not differentiate fact from fiction.

This misinformation and miscommunication about the virus and vaccinations in addition to what people believed to be a short-time in vaccine development and approval are the major causes of the vaccine hesitancy that sees a significant population reject the vaccinations until they feel safer in taking it.

So, how can we approach and solve this problem? The answer rests in developing effective communication strategy. In the age of the internet, people can get information from literally any website and this can cause people to be at a loss to use a specific source for their information. Therefore, we must ensure that national and international health websites must include all the information about COVID-19 vaccines: from how they are made to their side-effects and also address the misinformation that surrounds them.

If all this information is available in a single place, then people who are hesitant can evaluate all of the data there and come to a reasonable conclusion. In addition, it is wise not to assume that everyone is up to date on their knowledge of vaccinations so periodic and continuous information campaigns must be undertaken both offline and online to raise awareness and reach people from different walks of life. 

Another strategy that must be considered is combating the misinformation about vaccinations. Individuals and organizations that spread misinformation about vaccinations should be forced to retract their statements and face criminal charges if they fail to back their statements with valid data. These actions will surely result in declining rates of vaccine hesitancy among the population.

About the author

Daniel Gizaw is a 22-year-old 5th year medical student at Addis Ababa University and resides in Ethiopia. He is passionate about Public Health and SRHR Topics. He likes to spend his free time volunteering at different youth organizations and reading Sci-Fi fictions.

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