Overcoming Vaccine Hesitancy – The Key to Conquering Covid

(Credit: Unsplash)

This article was exclusively written for The European Sting by Mr. Krish Keswani, currently a second year student at the GMERS Medical College, Gotri in Vadodara, India. 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.

If there is one event in the past decade which has unexpectedly affected the entire world and still continues to do so, it has to be the coronavirus pandemic. The advent of the Covid vaccines have brought as much hope to the world as chaos brought upon it by Covid. However, victory hasn’t been achieved yet, for Covid has not been conquered yet.

The arrival of vaccines brought into the spotlight another grave issue, one which is crucial to understand as it stands in the way of the conquest of humanity over Covid; the issue of vaccine hesitancy amongst the population.

The reluctance of the general populace to accept and take safe and reliable vaccines has been termed as vaccine hesitancy. This issue already existed before Covid-19 with the emergence of various anti-vaxx groups worldwide, however the pandemic most definitely exacerbated this into something much more sinister. As such overcoming vaccine hesitancy has become the greatest marketing campaign and challenge of our time.

Adopting effective communication strategies is the key to overcoming vaccine hesitancy. The first and foremost step is to overcome misinformation about vaccines among the general populace. One study has advocated that public health providers/officials including, but not only limited to physicians and public health representatives of the government should make effective use of advertising and marketing practice ; which could include a physician refuting and debunking popular myths about vaccines on his social media, to further bolster the positive opinion on vaccines.

It has been observed that the number of skeptics on vaccines far outweigh the number of outright vaccine refusers, as such the second and arguably the most important part of the equation lies in swaying the thoughts of such skeptics. The need of the hour is to shift the focus from production and distribution of vaccines to maximizing their acceptance. Analogically, to capture the market share of the skeptics, is a responsibility which falls on the shoulders of the community leaders, local health workers as well as employers. The highly tried and tested method to increase vaccine acceptance is to provide incentives to the common man to get him through the door of a nearby vaccination centre. Employers can play a crucial role here by providing their employees with paid time off to get the vaccination shots. The government also has a role to play here, as seen in the case of North Carolina, USA, wherein the government provided a $25 cash incentive to all adults who received their vaccination or drove someone else to get their first shot of the vaccine. The effectiveness of such incentives is seen to be maximum when their receipt is certain and their delivery immediate.

Thus, it can be aptly said that the world does not face a supply shortage of vaccines, much rather it is one of a demand shortage, overcoming which will require the collective effort of physicians as well as the people in positions of power.

About the author

Krish Keswani is currently a second year student at the GMERS Medical College, Gotri in Vadodara, India. He showed an interest in medicine from an early age. On the surface he may seem like an ordinary med student, however he has a knack for writing and public speaking, a skill which he has been developing since his childhood. He did his schooling from Dubai and secured second rank in his school in his final year and apart from pursuing his academic goals, he likes to write, practice playing the guitar and work out.

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