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 Ms. Pragjna Keerthi, who has completed her academic year in medicine and is currently undergoing a compulsory rotating internship at Mahavir institute of medical sciences India. She 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.

Vaccines have always played a crucial role in eradicating and controlling several infectious diseases like smallpox and polio virus. Covid-19 has brought turbulence in world health care and  Vaccination is a critical step in extinguishing the pandemic. The global scientific community has agreed that the most effective way to defeat covid 19 is through mass vaccination of populations. The development of vaccines in the pandemic has demonstrated how powerful the collaboration of public funds, scientific knowledge can help in rapid inventions to address the global public needs. However the effort put in the development gives maximum outcome when the approval and vaccination of the population is done effectively. The vaccination process does not commence the immediate end of the global crisis as attaining herd immunity will require effective vaccination amongst the large population.

Herd immunity of the population depends on several factors like infectivity of virus, the effectiveness of the vaccine and the percentage of population vaccinated. Various studies suggest that solely relying on the vaccine to extinguish would require vaccination coverage of 100 percent with vaccine effectiveness of 60 percent. Unsure of the vaccine efficacy, a high vaccination rate is required to ensure control of the virus worldwide.

Based on several researchers, the possible factors that could play a crucial role in the vaccine hesitancy are difference in socio-economic status, difference in level of education, religious beliefs, females from lower socio-economic status, populist views. People who lack trust in their government and who do not believe in the health care system are also most likely to show hesitancy towards the vaccination.

Healthcare providers need to understand these individual barriers of vaccination and identify them to overcome with solutions and communicate effectively. Various studies have proved that a simple way of overcoming such barriers is by a simple text which could boost up the intentions of vaccination. Many a times hesitancy could be because of primary barriers like related to lack of information and education regarding vaccines and how to obtain it. Social media and awareness rallies  could become a general platform to overcome this issue.

Words matter but context matters more. In an environment that has become emotionally charged and exhausted building up a personal relationship with patients could elevate the confidence of health care workers. Use of blaming language could never be successful at this point of pandemic. Encouraging patients to communicate with their primary physician regarding the information could put the patient at ease. Several simulations show that hesitancy rate has dropped after effective ways of communication. Although the religious perspective is something we healthcare providers can not overcome, we should work in the easiest ways to overcome the other hurdles. A simple and personal communication has shown an increase in willingness to vaccinate amongst the population.

Your patient needs trust and easy access to their healthcare. Let’s build up the trust and overcome this pandemic with effective vaccination.

About the author

The author has completed her academic year in medicine and is currently undergoing a compulsory rotating internship at Mahavir institute of medical sciences  India. She  always wanted to be a part of the International Federation of Medical Students’ Associations and has finally taken initiative to be part of it . She believes medicine is not restrictive subject and hence  a collaboration  between countries could help with the growth of medicine. She aims to pursue a specialization  in critical care medicine and be a part of  Doctors without borders organisation (msf). 

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