WASHINGTON: The findings of a recent study suggested that even though the demand for COVID-19 vaccines currently seems to be high, hesitancy towards it might pose a major threat to public health efforts for ending the pandemic.
The authors of an editorial published in the journal Science, which included David A. Broniatowski, associate director of the George Washington University Institute for Data, Democracy, and Politics, pointed out that public sentiment towards vaccines is volatile in the face of events such as the recent controversy surrounding the AstraZeneca vaccine clinical trial data.
For example, some people could develop safety concerns due to the news reporting about the AstraZeneca vaccine and then turn down the chance to get an approved COVID-19 vaccine–thus putting them at risk.
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Vaccine hesitant people may have anxiety over safety concerns, or they might belong to a community that historically has mistrusted the medical establishment, according to the study.
Unfortunately, public health officials might not address their concerns. The editorial noted that people who are hesitant about getting the COVID-19 vaccine are often dismissed as anti-science. At the same time, the vaccine-hesitant can be influenced by false information posted on social media or the internet by anti-vaxx activists and organised anti-vaxx groups, the authors said.
“Vaccine hesitant people are targeted by anti-vaxxers and ridiculed by some health care providers.” Broniatowski said, “They are therefore doubly at risk.”
How can vaccine hesitancy be addressed?
Broniatowski co-authored the editorial with Professor Heidi J. Larson, Director of The Vaccine Confidence Project at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine.
“Messages about vaccines must be delivered in a way that is empathetic to avoid stigmatising people who have questions about the vaccine. Particularly in the context of Covid-19, with all its uncertainties, people need to be reassured, and feel that their concerns are heard,” Larson said.
Larson concluded, “And, if there is one thing we have learned in all our research, people’s concerns can change. Listening needs to be ongoing.” (ANI)