punjab-comes-up-with-a-unique-initiative-to-combat-vaccine-hesitancy

Context- To fight vaccine hesitancy Punjab Health Department has come up with a special play- Teeke Naal Jit- Victory with vaccine, which is an informative short play about the importance of vaccination drive against coronavirus and it is being staged in the villages. 

Background

  • Despite the rising number of cases in Punjab, health authorities have been finding it difficult to convince people to get vaccine shots. 
  • Not only common people, but a large number of health workers have also declined to take the vaccine. 
  • To overcome the hesitancy of the people from taking vaccines, the health Department in Punjab has come up with a unique initiative- a play that has actors from the village itself and pure educators, who are part of Rashtriya Kishore Swasthya Karyakram (RKSK). 
  • The play will be staged in various villages especially those where less response is received to the vaccination drive. 

Vaccine Hesitancy 

  • Vaccine hesitancy is defined by the World Health Organization as a delay in acceptance or refusal of vaccines despite the availability of vaccination services. Vaccine hesitancy has been reported in more than 90% countries of the world. 
  • The WHO in a report also held that vaccine hesitancy is among the top ten threats to global health. 
  • It is complex and context specific varying across time, place and the vaccine itself; and is often influenced by a variety of factors. 

Causes of Vaccine Hesitancy 

  • Misinformation- This is the main cause of vaccine hesitancy. People are particularly susceptible to misinformation due to an intricate combination of cognitive, social and algorithmic biases i.e., information overload and limited attention spans. 
  • Religious Propaganda- Some people believe that the vaccine may contain microbes, chemicals, and animal-derived products which are forbidden by religious laws. 
  • Vaccine derived diseases: Eg- the Oral Polio Vaccine (OPV) contains weakened but live poliovirus. From the vaccine, this virus is excreted by immunized children and it can move from one person to another. Due to this, the virus sticks around and mutates to a more virulent form which further raises the threat of vaccine-derived poliovirus (VDPV). 
  • Social Media- It is used in stirring fear in people by falsely blaming vaccines for unrelated diseases. It has seen a rising number of self-proclaimed experts who have been decoding the ingredients and efficacy of the vaccines through unsubstantiated claims. 
  • Side Effects- A lot of people hesitate to take vaccines especially during the initial phases of the vaccination drive due to concerns over safety, efficacy and possible side effects of the vaccine. 
  • Inconvenience- People hesitate to participate in the vaccination drive due to the difficulties that they have to face in accessing the vaccine especially when it is done through public hospitals owing to the poor conditions of public hospitals. 

Approach to combat vaccine hesitancy 

A 3C approach needs to be followed in order to eliminate vaccine hesitancy: Confidence, Complacency and Convenience. 

  • Confidence- It is the trust in the effectiveness and safety of vaccines, the system that delivers them, competence of the health care professionals who administer the vaccine delivery and the motives of those who established policies unnecessary vaccines. To build confidence, health care providers must provide reliable sources of information to patients and families. 
  • Complacency- It is the perception that risks of vaccine preventable diseases are low and vaccines are not necessary preventive action. To tackle this, there have to be honest conversations about acute and chronic complications of vaccine preventable diseases and personal anecdotal evidence that includes the personal experience of the provider with vaccine safety. 
  • Convenience- It is the extent to which vaccines are available, affordable, accessible, understood (language and health literacy), and appealing. Offering vaccine services at every clinic visit, before hospital discharge and during prescription pickup as well as informing patients of community resources such as immunization clinics or free or low-cost immunization services are few ways in which we can overcome the issue of convenience. 
  • In addition to this, other issues like lack of transportation also emerge and social work consultation can aid in resolution of such problems. 

Measures that can be adopted 

  • The government should focus on the swing population i.e., people who are skeptical but can be persuaded by making them aware of the scientific facts through proper communication. 
  • Open and honest information to be made available to the general public about the vaccine and its development. A portal can be set up for queries from the people where information is made available from credible sources. 
  • Giving confidence to the public by discussing the robustness of various processes involved in vaccine development — clinical trial designs, conduct, monitoring, analysis, reporting and the regulatory reviews that happen before it is approved. 
  • Using the celebrity effect — the ability of prominent personalities including politicians, bureaucrats, film stars and even religious leaders to influence the common population to take vaccines.  
  • Focusing on the development of inquisitive temper among the common masses regarding anything they read on the social media about the vaccine, its development, its efficacy or side effects to prevent unchecked sharing of misinformation. 
  • Use of Social Media Platforms like Facebook to counter any misinformation about vaccines as well as vaccination and spread awareness. 

Conclusion 

The pandemic has given India an opportunity to examine its dispensation of health care. Along with improving access, the government must seriously examine the conduct of vaccination drives and work hard to bolster public trust in it, and monitor the vaccination process for adverse reactions. Vaccine hesitancy is not an easy issue to combat and it may take more than one visit and assistance from more than one provider to put the parents and patients at ease. There needs to be a collective approach that involves the policy makers, bureaucrats, the frontline workers, civil society organizations as well as the common population to burst the myths and misinformation around vaccination. 

Source- Indian Express