Covid-19

Vaccine Hesitancy: Many Not Sure of COVID-19 Vaccine Safety

Researchers in the United Kingdom, Spain, and the United States found obvious signs of vaccine hesitancy surrounding a potential COVID-19 vaccine, although some countries had high acceptance rates, compared to others. Survey respondents said that trust in the government would affect their acceptance of a vaccine.

Global acceptance of COVID-19 vaccines

Hundreds of experimental COVID-19 vaccines are in various testing stages across the world. But only a handful successfully reached phase 3 clinical trials. If they pass this last phase of studies, the vaccines will need authorization from the Food and Drug Administration before they can be used in the U.S.

However, even if the FDA approves a vaccine, there may be a problem getting it out into the community because of growing vaccine hesitancy. So, the researchers conducted a survey to determine how common vaccine hesitancy is.

The World Health Organization (WHO) defines vaccine hesitancy as a delay in acceptance or refusal of available vaccines. Some of the key factors that lead to vaccine hesitancy include complacency, convenience and confidence. Vaccine hesitancy is different from anti-vaccination (or anti-vax). Those who are vaccine hesitant aren’t necessarily against getting vaccines – they literally are hesitant to do so. Anti-vaxxers, on the other hand, refuse vaccines. Hesitant individuals may change their mind if they gain higher trust and better understanding of vaccines.

The study

The study, published in Nature Medicine, involved over 13,000 people from 19 countries altogether. The researchers asked the respondents to respond to 22 items, including questions about vaccine uptake, trust in pandemic information sources and standard demographic questions.

The results showed that China had the highest acceptance rate at 88.6% and Poland, the lowest negative responses at 0.7%. Poland had the highest negative responses at 27.3% and Russia the lowest acceptance rate at 54.9%. Other key findings include:

  • 46.8% of respondents would completely agree if a vaccine is generally available.
  • 8.1% would completely disagree if a vaccine is generally available.
  • 14.2% expressed no opinion if a vaccine is generally available.
  • 31.9% would completely agree with getting vaccinated if recommended by employers.
  • 9.8% would completely disagree with getting vaccinated if recommended by employers.
  • 20.6% expressed no opinion on getting vaccinated if recommended by employers.
  • People aged 25 to 52 years, 55 to 64 years, and 65 years and older were more likely to accept vaccination than aged 18 to 24 years.
  • Men were slightly less likely to respond positively to vaccination than women.

Vaccine hesitancy vs. anti-vaccination

A study in the journal Pediatrics and Child Health discussed the differences between vaccine-hesitant people and anti-vaxxers. The author described vaccine hesitancy as a broadly used term, which included the active rejection of vaccines. The word hesitancy might represent a psychological state of uncertainty, not a true behavior. But the uncertainty might solidify anti-vaccination thoughts due to propaganda and messages.

People who are hesitant to get themselves or children vaccinated may have trust issues, especially with vaccine makers. This uncertainty may put vulnerable groups in danger of contracting diseases like measles and polio. Education and information programs may ease doubts over vaccines, so experts call for urgent action to improve public trust in vaccination programs.

"If we do not start building vaccine literacy and restoring public trust in science today, we cannot hope to contain this pandemic," the study co-author Heidi Larson, PhD, said in a press release.

Raise public trust

Researchers in the United Kingdom, Spain and the United States have found obvious signs of “vaccine hesitancy” in 19 countries that could impede a potential COVID-19 vaccine. Some countries have a higher acceptance rate than others, and survey respondents said that trust in the government would affect their acceptance of a vaccine.

Global acceptance of COVID-19 vaccines

Hundreds of experimental COVID-19 vaccines are in various testing stages across the world. But only a handful have successfully reached phase 3 clinical trials. If they pass this last phase of studies, the vaccines will need authorization from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) before they can be used in the U.S.

However, even if the FDA approves a vaccine, there may be a problem getting it out into the community because of growing vaccine hesitancy.

The World Health Organization (WHO) defines vaccine hesitancy as a delay in acceptance or refusal of available vaccines. Key factors that lead to vaccine hesitancy include complacency, convenience and confidence. Vaccine hesitancy is different from anti-vaccination (or anti-vax). Those who are vaccine hesitant aren’t necessarily against getting vaccines – they literally are hesitant to do so. Anti-vaxxers, on the other hand, refuse vaccination. Hesitant individuals may change their minds if they gain more trust and a better understanding of vaccines.

The study

A joint team of researchers from the UK, Spain and the US surveyed over 13,000 people from 19 countries to determine how common vaccine hesitancy is around the world. The study was published in October in Nature Medicine.

The researchers asked participants to respond to 22 items, including questions about vaccine uptake, trust in pandemic information sources and standard demographic questions.

The results showed that China had the highest acceptance rate at 88.6% and the lowest proportion of negative responses at 0.7%. Poland had the highest negative responses at 27.3% and Russia the lowest acceptance rate at 54.9%.  Other key findings include:

  • 46.8% of respondents would completely agree if a vaccine is generally available.
  • 8.1% would completely disagree if a vaccine is generally available.
  • 14.2% expressed no opinion if a vaccine is generally available.
  • 31.9% would completely agree with getting vaccinated if recommended by employers.
  • 9.8% would completely disagree with getting vaccinated if recommended by employers.
  • 20.6% expressed no opinion on getting vaccinated if recommended by employers.
  • People aged 25 to 52 years, 55 to 64 years, and 65 years and older were more likely to accept vaccination than aged 18 to 24 years.
  • Men were slightly less likely to respond positively to vaccination than women.

Vaccine hesitancy vs. anti-vaccination

Meanwhile, a study in the journal Pediatrics and Child Health discussed the differences between vaccine-hesitant people and anti-vaxxers. The author, David Isaacs, MD, described vaccine hesitancy as a broadly used term, which includes the active rejection of vaccines. The word hesitancy might represent a psychological state of uncertainty, not a true behavior. But the uncertainty might solidify anti-vaccination thoughts due to propaganda and messages. Dr. Isaacs is a clinical professor in paediatric infectious diseases at the University of Sydney.

People who hesitate to get themselves or children vaccinated may have trust issues, especially with vaccine makers. This uncertainty may put vulnerable groups in danger of contracting diseases like measles and polio. Education and information programs may ease doubts, so experts call for urgent action to improve public trust in vaccination programs.

"If we do not start building vaccine literacy and restoring public trust in science today, we cannot hope to contain this pandemic," said Heidi Larson, PhD, a co-author of the Nature Medicine study, in a press statement. Dr. Larson runs the Vaccine Confidence Project at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine.

Raise public trust

Scientists have joined a new initiative called Team Halo and will appear in videos on social media to boost public confidence in their work, including vaccine development. Doctors and researchers in different countries plan to post about vaccines using the hashtag #TeamHalo to represent global scientific endeavors on various social media platforms. 

One study in the Royal Society Open Science showed one-third of individuals in certain nations believed in the misinformation, such as "‘Gargling salt water or lemon juice reduces the risk of infection from coronavirus," and they were less willing to get vaccinated. Another study from Cornell University suggested that " miracle cures" play a role in coronavirus misinformation. Experts hope that the educational outreach may lessen the effects of COVID-related misinformation that is found online.

Scientists joined a new initiative and will appear in videos on social media to boost public confidence in their work, including vaccine development. Doctors and researchers in different countries plan to post about vaccine, using the hashtag #TeamHalo to represent global scientific endeavors on various social media platforms.

One study in the Royal Society Open Science showed one-third of individuals in certain nations believed in the misinformation, and they were less willing to get vaccinated. Another study from Cornell University suggested that "miracle cures" play a role in the coronavirus misinformation. Experts hope that the educational outreach may lessen the effects of COVID-related misinformation that is found online.

Ralph Chen is an enthusiast of medical topics and advanced technologies. When not writing, he spends time playing popular PC games.

 

 

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