Vaccine Hesitancy in Covid-19: How can we Approach it with efficient communication Strategies?

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This article was exclusively written for The European Sting by Mr. IZERE Salomon, a 2nd year medical student at University of Rwanda college of Medicine and Health Sciences in Rwanda. 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.


In this Article you will understand Vaccination hesitancy, Factors associated with it and how we can tackle this issue with some different communication strategies.

The ongoing pandemic of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) has already infected a large number of the population and some already died. Both therapeutic and non-therapeutic measures were taken to decrease the numbers of COVID-19 Pandemic confirmed cases and reduce the deaths reported. However, the non-pharmaceutical interventions taken worldwide to tackle the pandemic have become tranquil with time. Therefore, it becomes essential to achieve herd immunity or implement effective vaccination.

Thus, mass vaccination has become the only way to manage COVID-19 transmission. Vaccines other than COVID-19 are one of the most effective and reliable public health Interventions ever implemented that prevent millions of deaths from viral infections every year.

Although anti-vaccination attitudes and associated misconceptions are prevalent worldwide, vaccination programs have been developed and progressed significantly in the global health era. Currently, the vaccine from The Pfizer/BioNTech, the SII/Covishield and AstraZeneca/AZ1222 developed by AstraZeneca/oxford, the Janssen/Ad26.COV 2.S developed by Johnson & Johnson, the Moderna, The Sinopharm covid-19 vaccine and Sinovac CoronaVac are listed for WHO emergency use listing (EUL). These vaccines have some sort of mild to moderate side effects, but all of them are safe and effective (60-95%). COVID-19 vaccines save from not only infections but also severe illness and death. Though mass vaccination programs have already been started globally, the effectiveness of vaccination programs has been affected by Hesitancy to receive the vaccines in populations, where vaccine hesitancy is defined as the delay in acceptance or refusal of available vaccines.

Hesitancy regarding COVID-19 Vaccines is prominently evident worldwide. Studies have identified several factors associated with COVID-19 Vaccine hesitancy in different domains. The identified factors included Various Socioeconomic and demographic characteristics (Age, sex, Residence, income, occupation and marital status), health beliefs, religious beliefs psychological beliefs, Vaccine related knowledge, Attitude towards COVID-19 Vaccination, conspiracy beliefs, trust and confidence, Covid-19 preventive behavioral practices, and the perceived safety and side effects of the vaccines.

To solve the issue of Covid-19 Vaccine hesitancy, many strategies have been addressed but my concern is about the use of communication strategies. Patient-provider communication is an essential channel which can solve a sort of problem related to COVID-19 Vaccine acceptance.

As we said before, there are many reasons for not getting vaccinated as there are people not getting vaccinated. Each person who opts not to receive the covid-19 vaccine has their own experience, world views, and decision-making processes all of which contribute to choice. On the other hand many people have strong feelings of fear and uncertainty around the safety of the vaccine. A census household pulse survey published in the New York times found the top two reasons given for not yet getting a shot are: “side effects” (53%) and “waiting to see if it’s safe” (40%). Let’s crack some communication strategies which can help us tackle this issue of COVID-19 Vaccine hesitancy.

Healthcare provider communication with patients and parents is an essential target of an effort to decrease COVID-19 Hesitancy.it involve introduction of the need for vaccination and the discussion of any vaccine concerns,

COVID-19 Vaccination Awareness campaigns both online and face to face teaching them about COVID-19, its origin, effects, and even its treatment will make them understand the use of vaccination.

Meeting people where they are, messaging people who are willing and need more information about vaccines will be different than for those who are hesitant, yet open to learning more about COVID-19 Vaccines.

Tailor messages to specific groups, if the information provided is not relevant or responsive to diverse audiences’ needs, the information will get ignored. A successful communication strategy should emphasize population segmentation and use appropriate approaches to reach vaccine hesitant audiences.

Identify trusted messengers, when people trust the person or institution that is delivering messages about COVID-19 vaccination, it can increase credibility. In the digital era, it’s important to identify trust gaps and trusted sources to carry public health messages to fill in those gaps.

Emphasize support for vaccines, people often turn to their peers for cues on how to behave, says the report. By making vaccine uptake visible, rather than focusing on naysayers, it can encourage vaccine acceptance as a social norm. For example, vaccine sites can provide “I got vaccinated “stickers or encourage people to post on social media after receiving their COVID-19 Vaccine.

Leverage trusted vaccine endorsers, this include Partnering with people who have strong community relationships with experts and adapting messages as needed. For example, barbers, beauticians can partner with local health professionals to talk about vaccines.

Vaccine hesitancy can have a variety of causes and should be thought of as a spectrum of concerns. There is an opportunity to persuade vaccine hesitant individuals to COVID-19 Vaccine, and it is important to identify them early before they become vaccine refusers. One of the most important strategies to increase vaccine uptake is improved healthcare provider communication.

References:

  1. Nguyen, K.H., 2021. Prior COVID-19 Infection, Mental Health, Food and Financial Insecurity, and Association With COVID-19 Vaccination Coverage and Intent Among College-Aged Young Adults, US, 2021. Preventing chronic disease18.
  2. Crawshaw, A.F., Deal, A., Rustage, K., Forster, A.S., Campos-Matos, I., Vandrevala, T., Würz, A., Pharris, A., Suk, J.E., Kinsman, J. and Deogan, C., 2021. What must be done to tackle vaccine hesitancy and barriers to COVID-19 vaccination in migrants?. Journal of travel medicine28(4), p.taab048.
  3. Betsch C. Innovations in communication: the internet and the psychology of vaccination decisions. Euro Surveill. 2011;16(17). Pii:19849
  4. Friedrich, M. J. “WHO’s top health threats for 2019.” Jama 321, no. 11 (2019): 1041-1041.
  5. McGee MD, L.U. and Suh JD, J., 2019. Communication strategies to address vaccine hesitancy in healthcare settings and on social media. Journal of Applied Research on Children: Informing Policy for Children at Risk10(2), p.7.

About the author

IZERE Salomon is a 2nd year medical student at University of Rwanda college of Medicine and Health Sciences in Rwanda. He’s also an active member of medical students’ Association of Rwanda (MEDSAR, Rwanda), an affiliated NMO of IFMSA, currently serves as a member of the SCOPH standing Committee.

Comments

  1. Hey! I really need to forward this article to my local clinic owner some time later so he could come up with an effective strategy moving forward. You see, he’s quite worried at the moment considering almost half of his regular patients haven’t been fully vaccinated against COVID-19 yet. I like it when you said that information transparency is the key to convincing people about the benefit of the vaccine without undermining their concerns.

  2. Mustapha Mubarak J. says:

    This is a great and concise write up I must say.

    We face same issue here with vaccine hesitant individuals in Nigeria and the measures listed is a great one to be taken into consideration.

    I’m sharing this, Thank you!

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