Q) With no “one size fits all” approach to vaccine hesitancy, contextualised and curated approaches are crucial. In this context, discuss the challenge of vaccine hesitancy and measures to overcome it.
Why this question?
Issue of current importance
Key demand of the Question
Discuss in detail about vaccine hesitancy, its causes and approach to deal with it
Discuss – This is an all-encompassing directive – you have to debate on paper by going through the details of the issues concerned by examining each one of them. You have to give reasons for both for and against arguments.
Start by defining vaccine hesitancy.
In the first part, explain the causes of vaccine hesitancy and why one solution cannot be applicable globally to tackle the problem.
In the next part, highlight the solutions to overcome the challenge.
Conclude with a way forward.
According to the World Health Organization, vaccine hesitancy is deﬁned as a reluctance or refusal to vaccinate despite the availability of vaccine services. It has been reported in more than 90% of countries in the world including India. It is complex and context specific varying across time, place and the vaccine itself; and is influenced by a variety of factors.
Causes of Vaccine Hesitancy
- Misinformation- It 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- 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.
Measures to Combat Vaccine Hesitancy
- The government should focus on the swing population i.e., people who are sceptical but can be persuaded through scientiﬁc facts and proper communication.
- Open information about the vaccine and its development. A portal can be set up for queries from the people.
- Give 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.
- Use the celebrity eﬀect to persuade people- the ability of prominent personalities including politicians, bureaucrats, film stars and even religious leaders to inﬂuence others to take vaccines.
- Focusing on the development of inquisitive temper among the people 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 Social Media Platforms to counter any misinformation regarding vaccines and spread awareness.
- Use of incentives to boost vaccination drives.
The pandemic gave India an opportunity to examine its dispensation of health care. Along with improving access, the government must seriously examine the conduct of vaccine trials and work hard to bolster public trust in it, and monitor the vaccination process for adverse reactions.