COVID-19 vaccines are now within reach, with several discoveries on the horizon. This is great news in the end of a tough pandemic calendar year.
But even after we have overcome the imminent challenges of adequate supply, effective rollout and equitable accessibility, vaccine hesitancy will remain a significant stumbling block to achieving the herd resistance which may shield us all.
In addition to the sheer size of the forthcoming vaccination campaign, the vaccines will likely be fresh and are likely to be only partially effective for a unknown time period.
There might be so-called negative events or incorrectly attributed to the new vaccines, and states will set different safety thresholds before supplying the vaccines into their inhabitants.
But research has proven that it is not sufficient to give advice on vaccines to encourage their uptake.
It recommends addressing those drivers to encourage communities to accept and take up vaccination.
First, we have to ensure it is simple, quick and affordable to get vaccinated, particularly for the huge percentage of people who are not deliberately avoiding vaccination.
What might appear to be reluctance, immunity or even opposition, might actually be a result of the burdens or inconvenience of being vaccinated.
Immunization rollout plans need to consider factors such as the convenience of time and location, associated costs, and also the quality of the experience of being vaccinated.
For instance, if the default option in colleges would be to vaccinate all students, with the provision of allowing individuals who object to opt out, then vaccination rates will likely be greater than in case the default is to supply vaccination only to those who choose in.
Making vaccines easily obtainable in safe, familiar and convenient locations, for example”drop-in” clinics which are near where people often go, may also promote uptake.
This should be accompanied by concentrated, credible and transparent communication from trusted sources demonstrating getting vaccinated is important, beneficial, easy, quick and affordable.
Health systems have to be ready to reduce obstacles to supply, service delivery and high quality of services, in addition to ensuring health care and community workers are well trained and well supported.
Secondly, we will need to exploit social influences, including from reputable community statistics.
By making vaccine uptake”observable” to others, through practices in prominent public areas or by empowering ways for people to signal that they’ve received the vaccine — on social networking, in news media or in person — may contribute to making the social norm more conspicuous.
Showing that caregivers are being vaccinated can lead to greater acceptance and uptake by the general populace.
Amplifying endorsements from reputable community members may also assist.
Third, we need to raise individual motivation via open and transparent dialogue and communication about the uncertainty and risks, but also the security and benefits of vaccination.
Some might be hesitant toward vaccination as a result of beliefs which they have a minimal risk of infection, others might have concerns regarding the safety of vaccines, while some might be reluctant because of spiritual values or lack of trust in the health system.
Developing trusted sources, fact-checking and reacting to misinformation through dedicated dashboards are some of the approaches suggested to handle infodemics.
Vaccine approval and uptake might also be undermined by COVID-19 vaccines not fully effective, meaning people will need to continue to take part in preventative behaviour (e.g. mask wearing and physical distancing) even if and after they’ve been vaccinated.
It will be important to handle expectations and make sure individuals who have been vaccinated don’t cease adhering to protective behaviours and expose themselves and others to hazard.
It’s important to build confidence in COVID-19 vaccines before individuals form an opinion against them.
Communication always, transparently, empathetically and proactively about doubt, risks and vaccine availability will contribute to building confidence.