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Vaccine hesitancy: A major problem in India

Vaccine hesitancy
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Those unwilling to take vaccines don’t need more science; Vaccine hesitancy

Sanjana Tiwari

Ground Report | New Delhi: Vaccine hesitancy is complex and context-specific, varying across time, place, and vaccines. The influencing factors include a lack of awareness of the extent of benefits, fears based on inaccurate information, lack of access to the vaccine, civil liberty concepts, cost, cultural issues, and various layers of confidence deficit (mistrust of intent, lack of confidence in the system) sown by conspiracy theories & disinformation.

Disinformation is rife, especially on social media. Among those who are extremely hesitant are the ‘ anti- vaxxers’. The rest comprise those who delay getting vaccinated, accept vaccines in principle but are skeptical of their use, accept certain vaccines but not others, etc. ‘free riders’ are those who do not want vaccines but wish to derive the benefits of herd immunity.

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The consequence of vaccine hesitancy is disastrous. If herd immunity does not develop, disease outbreaks and pandemics will prevail. The slower the vaccination rate, the wider the spread of infection and the greater the chances of mutations and the emergence of new variants.

To reduce vaccine fears, people should do one most important thing that is they should only focus on simple facts. Vaccines have been widely tested. The side effects that may last a couple of days are a very small price to pay to vastly reduce getting seriously ill from the disease. The less than one in a million chance of getting a serious side effect the disease is likely to have.

Addressing the strategies to blunt disinformation, especially on social media.

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Although vaccine hesitancy is not a new concept in India. While not different from prior vaccine drives, the objective now is to reach more people faster with a message that just doesn’t provide more science but includes guidance too. Providing practical information through social media, alternatives to apps for those lacking easy access to vaccines, and taking the help of well-informed frontline workers will all help.

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