Building trust in the COVID-19 vaccine

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This article was exclusively written for The European Sting by Ms. Aashka Shah is a final year Medical Student at Pramukhswami Medical College, Karamsad and Ms. Vidhi Parikh, an intern doctor at Parul Institute of Medical Sciences and Research and Parul Sevashram Hospital, India. They are 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 total number of global deaths attributable to the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020 is at least 3 million.[1] . Since then it has been very heartbreaking to watch news channels flooded with covid-19 pandemic and its consequences. But thanks to science we now have a vaccine for combating this devastating pandemic.

Vaccine hesitancy means the refusal to get vaccinated despite its availability.[2] This is a major issue of concern and it ultimately makes the virus more virulent and difficult to control. Despite the large number of hospitalizations due to the virus among the unvaccinated populations, people are still hesitant of the vaccines provided by the government.

A major reason for the unwillingness towards vaccination is the insufficiency of knowledge and the endless loop of misconceptions in the form of cultural, scientific and religious beliefs which needs to be addressed appropriately. It’s like a war against science.

If this issue is not tackled at the earliest, it will lead to a never ending pandemic. Innovative strategies should be adopted to address this issue. Beginning from lessons learned from previous vaccine hesitancy namely HPV vaccine, Polio, Smallpox etc.

Humans are intrigued by stories which often leave an imprint on one’s mind. We as students usually find it difficult memorizing from the textbooks, but when the same concept is told in the form of a narrative, it becomes easier to learn that same text. Similarly, tales of prior successful vaccinations should be included in one’s pitch for effective communication. Not only will the stories of personal experiences leave an impact but it will also make it sound more plausible. 

Since the past decade social media has become a huge part of one’s life and has played a massive role in the vaccination drive whether it was encouraging people to get vaccinated or addressing any misconceptions. This social platform can be used as an advantage in reaching a large number of people so as to raise awareness and ensure effective communication in reducing the hesitancy towards covid vaccination. People usually prefer watching short clips over reading large articles, so small video clips verified by a certified health care provider showing how the vaccine works should be released on social platforms and the videos should also clarify any misconceptions or false information regarding the vaccine.

Healthy and friendly interactive sessions should be held at primary health centers to find out the root cause of hesitancy towards vaccination and appropriate action should be taken for eliminating such hesitancy. Interactive sessions such as bursting myths associated with vaccine  should be carried out in rural schools and slum areas by college students in the form of plays. Also awareness campaigns should be carried out in vulnerable populations such as the elderly. Moreover, the government should collaborate with renowned NGOs for eliminating any taboos, misinformation or myths associated with vaccine.The poor people should be protected from the fake news associated with vaccines.

Lastly, the pandemic will not come to an end unless every person contributes – so more and more vaccine recipients should encourage their family members and friends to take the vaccine.  

References:

1-   https://www.who.int/data/stories/the-true-death-toll-of-covid-19-estimating-global-excess-mortality

2-    MacDonald NE, SAGE Working Group on Vaccine Hesitancy Vaccine hesitancy: definition, scope and determinants. Vaccine. 2015;33(34):4161–4. Epub 2015 Apr 17. [PubMed] [Google Scholar]

About the authors

Aashka Shah is a final year Medical Student at Pramukhswami Medical College, Karamsad. She aims at raising opportunities and access amongst Women and Children for essential health care. She is a part of the Women Development Cell in her college,and is currently working on research regarding menstrual cups. She was also the College Ambassador for Global Academy-UK whose mission is to empower health care professionals to become effective communicators,is currently volunteering under the National Service Scheme and is a former National Table Tennis player. She is also interested in Child health.

Vidhi Parikh is an intern doctor at Parul Institute of Medical Sciences and Research and Parul Sevashram Hospital, India. She is a member of MSAI. She has also done a research study on menstruation when she was in her third year of medical school. She has attended various workshops and conferences concerned with skills in medicine and patient care. She is an avid reader of Track. She has started a campaign on MHM where she spreads awareness in rural areas and aims to end period poverty. She is interested in research involving newborn medicine. 

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