The wait for covid vaccine seems to be over soon, as the worldwide efforts to create a safe and effective COVID-19 vaccine are bringing some results. A handful of vaccines now have been authorized around the globe while many more remain in development. The UK has already begun rolling out Pufzer’s covid-19 vaccine for the masses. In India, Pfizer, Serum Institute of India and Bharat Biotech have applied for market authorisation for their vaccines and vaccination drives will start as soon as the country approves the emergency use of any of the vaccine candidates. The central government has already announced the plan of the mega vaccination drive. It will be provided first to healthcare workers, frontline workers and to persons above 50 years of age. After getting a vaccine, making it available to the masses and tackling “vaccine hesitancy” is a challenge for the government.
In an online survey conducted by LocalCircles, a community social media platform, which received over 25,000 responses from 262 districts, revealed that nearly 60% people would not rush to take a vaccine even if it was available by February. However, experts suggest that no vaccine is completely risk-free, but vaccines are licensed only when their benefits highly outweigh its risks. Historically also vaccines have been success stories in reducing several diseases such as polio, measles, smallpox, etc. In the current scenario, a covid vaccine is the only hope to control the pandemic.
In 2019, the World Health Organisation listed “vaccine hesitancy” as among the top 10 threats to the global health sector. As WHO defines vaccine hesitancy as the reluctance or refusal to vaccinate despite the availability of vaccines. The issue of why people do not want to vaccinate is complex and is influenced by factors such as complacency, convenience and confidence. Lack of awareness about the vaccine, misinformation and rumours, lack of trust in the authorities can make people reluctant to vaccinate. Vaccine hesitancy has been a concern in India in the past also. In the case of the polio vaccine during 2000, because of the misconception that over oral poliovirus vaccines (OPV) causes infertility and is ineffective, many people were sceptical about taking the vaccine.
Vaccine scepticism has the potential to lower the efforts to control the disease. The process of getting vaccinated must be made as seamless and accessible as possible, and the vaccines should be made affordable and accessible. The global health community and governments across the world will have to face several barriers to gain trust in the vaccine and encourage individuals for its uptake. It is necessary that people are made aware of the vaccine through an authentic and authorised channel. This issue of vaccine hesitancy can be tackled by informing people, launching communication programs to aware masses. The biggest challenge is fake news and the spread of misinformation. At this time it is important not to get information from “Whatsapp University” instead rely on the authentic sources and along with controlling the spread of the virus, it is equally important to stop the spread of misinformation and fake news as well.