Vaccine hesitancy in COVID-19 and what we can do about it – The European Sting – Critical News & Insights on European Politics, Economy, Foreign Affairs, Business & Technology
This article was exclusively written for The European Sting by Mr. Muhammad Waleed Chaudhry is currently a 4e medical student at the Aga Khan University, Karachi, Pakistan. It is affiliated with the International Federation of Medical Students’ Associations (IFMSA), cordial partner of The Sting. The opinions expressed in this article belong strictly to the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of IFMSA on the subject, nor that of The European Sting.
Vaccine hesitancy refers to the delay or refusal of vaccines. It has become a major problem across the world today. With so much misinformation on social media platforms, distrust of vaccines themselves, conspiracy theories, distrust of people of color that stems from structural racism and lack of equitable accessibility; one could understand why people might choose not to get vaccinated. Additionally, some members of the public believe that COVID-19 may not be serious enough to warrant getting vaccinated. In Pakistan, I have heard concerns about vaccination leading to infertility, causing abortions or simply not being religiously acceptable.
Before moving on to the approach to combating this type of hesitancy, it is important to first recognize the impact that vaccine hesitancy can have and why it has been identified by WHO as one of the of the top 10 threats in 2019. Herd immunity occurs when a significant portion of the population is immune to a certain disease, resulting in a reduced risk of spreading infection. Vaccination hesitancy is an obstacle to achieving herd immunity. Therefore, with every vaccination, one might assume that we are not only protecting ourselves, but also the people we interact with in our day-to-day lives.
It is imperative to understand that solving this problem requires a multidimensional approach. In times of confusion, we tend to look at the people we know. This provides an opportunity for celebrities, community representatives, religious leaders and grassroots healthcare workers to step up and help reduce vaccine hesitancy. Healthcare professionals should be considerate of these people and answer their questions with the utmost respect and in the simplest way possible for the sake of clarity. It is important for healthcare professionals to regain the trust of people who have lost it for whatever reason so that we can all work towards a healthier global population. Even medical students like me can help clear up confusions about COVID-19 to the best of our abilities. Campaigns could be conducted to raise awareness – social media or journals could serve as a viable platform for such activities. Other communication strategies include publishing research, articles, appearing on popular talk shows to reach the public, and educating patients in hospitals.
I strongly believe that to reduce vaccine hesitancy we all need to work, whatever our role. I sincerely hope we can do this and in doing so save the lives of countless other people, if not our own.
About the Author
Muhammad Waleed Chaudhry is currently 4e medical student at the Aga Khan University, Karachi, Pakistan. He is the administrative director of Quadragon, a student-run NGO. He is particularly interested in palliative care, research and is aiming for a career in oncology. He enjoys volunteering at local activities and playing basketball in his spare time.