Vaccine hesitancy in COVID-19: How to tackle it with effective communication strategies – The European Sting – Critical News & Insights on European Politics, Economy, Foreign Affairs, Business & Technology
This article was exclusively written for The European Sting by Ms Pragjna Keerthi, who has completed her academic year in medicine and is currently doing a mandatory rotating internship at the Mahavir Institute of Medical Sciences in India. 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.
Vaccines have always played a crucial role in the eradication and control of several infectious diseases such as smallpox and poliomyelitis virus. Covid-19 has caused turmoil in global healthcare and vaccination is a critical step in extinguishing the pandemic. The global scientific community has agreed that the most effective way to defeat covid 19 is through mass vaccination of populations. The development of vaccines in the pandemic has demonstrated how the collaboration of public funds, scientific knowledge can help rapid inventions to meet global public needs. However, the effort put into the development yields maximum results when the approval and vaccination of the population is done effectively. The vaccination process does not mark the immediate end of the global crisis, as achieving herd immunity will require effective vaccination among the general population.
The herd immunity of the population depends on several factors such as the infectivity of the virus, the effectiveness of the vaccine and the percentage of the population vaccinated. Various studies suggest that relying solely on the vaccine to extinguish would require 100% vaccination coverage with 60% vaccine efficacy. Uncertain of the vaccine’s effectiveness, a high vaccination rate is needed to ensure control of the virus worldwide.
According to several researchers, possible factors that could play a crucial role in vaccine hesitancy are difference in socio-economic status, difference in educational level, religious beliefs, women of lower socio-economic status, populist opinions. People who lack trust in their government and who don’t believe in the healthcare system are also the most likely to be hesitant to get vaccinated.
Healthcare providers need to understand these individual barriers to immunization and identify them to overcome them with solutions and communicate effectively. Various studies have proven that a simple way to overcome these barriers is to use simple text that could boost vaccination intentions. Often hesitation may be due to primary barriers such as lack of information and education about vaccines and how to obtain them. Social media and awareness gatherings could become a general platform to overcome this problem.
Words matter but context matters more. In an environment that has become emotionally charged and drained, establishing a personal relationship with patients could increase the confidence of healthcare workers. The use of accusatory language could never succeed at this stage of the pandemic. Encouraging patients to communicate with their treating physician about the information could put the patient at ease. Several simulations show that the hesitation rate dropped after effective means of communication. Although the religious perspective is something that we health care providers cannot overcome, we must work in the simplest way to overcome the other obstacles. Simple and personal communication showed an increase in the willingness to vaccinate among the population.
Your patient needs trust and easy access to their healthcare. Let’s build trust and overcome this pandemic with effective vaccination.
About the Author
The author has completed his academic year in medicine and is currently doing a mandatory rotational internship at the Mahavir Institute of Medical Sciences in India. She always wanted to be part of the International Federation of Medical Students’ Associations and eventually took the initiative to join. She believes that medicine is not a restrictive subject and therefore collaboration between countries could contribute to the growth of medicine.. She aims to pursue a specialization in intensive care medicine and to be part of the organization Médecins sans frontières (MSF).