The World Health Organization defines vaccine hesitancy as a “delay in acceptance or refusal of safe vaccines despite availability of vaccine services. Vaccine hesitancy has identified as a leading global health threat which has increased in the times of COVID-19.
A survey in Israel indicated that the percentage of people who intended to obtain a COVID-19 vaccine was 78% among physicians, 61% among nurses, and 75% in the general population. Low acceptance rates were also observed among Hong Kong nurses in two studies, and in late 2020, only 36% of U.S. HCWs said they were willing to take the vaccine as soon as it became available (56% said they were not sure and would wait to review more data).
Though none of the COVID-19 vaccines yet fully approved for commercial use by the WHO, FDA, EU or any other healthcare organization, many have been granted emergency use approval and thus are inoculated like they were commercialized. These drugs/therapies including vaccines were approved based on the scientific studies on thousands of patients and many of these studies have been challenged and counteracted which is why people are reluctant to the decisions of these bodies.
Factors associated with intention to delay or refuse to take COVID-19 vaccines are influenced by many issues. In this article, we are discussing how COVID vaccine hesitancy grew to maximum limits under the following points:
Safety and efficacy concerns
The first thing which comes in minds of people is safety of vaccine because many vaccines studies have reported serious side effects like blood clots, anaphylaxis, infertility problems etc. and even death. The people believe though regulatory processes were relieved but these vaccines are produced in a rush and long term results can be too dangerous because technologies like mRNA technology which is used for the first two COVID-19 vaccines authorized in the U.S. — is entirely new. The trust could build among people but it goes down when COVID-19 vaccine makers have all declined to accept any compensation liability in case of any severe side effects and death. On the top of that they were asked for indemnity from governments- a kind of legal immunity against side effects and death.
Distrust in government organizations and political leaders
From the very start of the pandemic governments have been seen to make decision in favour of their country for kits, vaccines, lockdown measures etc. and it was evident from some statements from leaders like Trump who criticized China, warned WHO to cut funding etc. in the middle of pandemic when so many were dying as per figures.
And when whole world was forced to wear masks and otherwise penalized, the leaders were seen to flout COVID protocols; US President Donald Trump was criticised on social media after he posed outside the White House without a mask despite testing COVID-19 positive and having just returned from a hospital. Similarly, Indian PM Modi and HM Shah were heavily criticized for not wearing mask at a public events.
Menstruation, Pregnancy and Fertility Issues
Again, media has reported serious side effects in males and females after vaccination which can lead to Menstruation, pregnancy and fertility issues, though health organizations like GAVI and others declared that “There is absolutely no scientific evidence or truth behind this concern that vaccines somehow interfere with fertility, either in men or in women” but because people do not trust health organizations so they are not willing to take chances. In general the HPV (human papillomavirus) vaccine and the flu vaccine have been known to affect menstrual cycles temporarily so it is equally possible in COVID-19 vaccines too, according to some researchers.
Anthropologist Dr Kathryn Clancy at the University of Illinois spoke on Twitter about how her period arrived early and was heavier than usual one week after her first dose of the Moderna vaccine. The Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA-UK) has so far received more than 13,000 reports from women across the country who have experienced changes to their period after having the vaccine.
Distrust in health organizations
Big organizations like WHO and FDA were questioned many a times for approval of unproven therapies for COVID-19, based on the studies published in Lancet NEJM etc. Later these studies were retracted and so the approved therapies were also unapproved subsequently. Now also, health organizations face criticism for doing the same in different parts of the world when they approve therapies without making data available to public for scrutiny.
It is also in mind of people that health organizations have exaggerated COVID-19’s lethality for pharmaceutical and political gain. For example, many fraud diagnostic kits manufacturers were caught red handed for bribing and providing bogus kits. Masks, sanitizers, PPE kits, manufacturers were seen to provide low quality and high price material and the material for free public distribution by govt bodies had come in black market. Similarly, reports came of oxygen, drugs black marketing in India where things which normally cost around 1000 Rs. were sold at 35000-1 lakh Rs in emergency situations.
Two Chinese companies — Livzon Diagnostic Inc and Wondfo — which supplied 6.0 lakh kits to India on April 16 2020, say that they were validated by NIV, Pune and then cleared by ICMR for supply.
According to details provided in the Delhi High Court, the kits procured from China, whose delivered cost was ₹245 a test, were sold to ICMR for ₹600 a test — a mark up of 145%. The matter came to light when Rare Metabolics Life Sciences Pvt Ltd and Aark Pharmaceuticals, distributors of Chinese Wondfo Biotech’s kits imported by Matrix Labs, approached the High Court recently to get delivery/payment disputes cleared.
Some antibody tests, which check for prior Covid-19 infection, had high rates of false positives in screenings performed by a consortium of California laboratories, according to a recently released report.
Media misinformation is a major concern for vaccine hesitancy because the data (infections, deaths etc.) they have shown has ben challenged several times. People believe that these media organizations have exaggerated the severity of COVID-19 to increase their TRPs. The doubts about disease spread, prevention, lethality, and vaccine safety etc. were judged without any scientific calibre and thus perception of the information provided become inconsistent and contradictory. These all information has led government, policymakers, health authorities, and pharmaceutical companies to change their strategies as per information.
False Statistics about infection and deaths
On April 17, 2020 China’s death toll from the coronavirus has jumped sharply in the city of Wuhan, where the virus emerged last year, added another 1,300 fatalities to its official count in a single day when its death rate was challenged. The revision raises the death toll in the 11-million-person city by 50% to 3,869, and brings the China’s overall death toll to more than 4,600.
Various reports and news have also came of fake CoV dashboards. According to Shai Alfasi, a security researcher at Reason Labs, hackers have developed a fake version of online dashboards which were shown to use tracking of the coronavirus impact in real-time but they were not taking data from genuine sources and were just advertisement platforms.
Preference for Natural Immunity
Current evidence suggests that antibody concentrations in the blood of people who have been infected by SARS-CoV-2 can persist in some people for at least 8 months, and possibly longer, after infection which is natural immunity and thus do not need vaccine to attain immunity. People in US and other countries have started believing that COVID-19 is harmless and they have achieved natural immunity against the virus and need not to get vaccinated. Individuals who believe the seriousness of COVID-19 has been exaggerated perceive the risk of vaccination to be greater than the risk of infection.
Rallies and Gatherings of Celebrities
between June 20 and September 30, About 18 election rallies by President Donald Trump are estimated to have lead to more than 30,000 confirmed cases of coronavirus and likely led to more than 700 deaths, a new study by Stanford University researchers said. In India, the holy festival Kumbh Mela has long run alarm bells among the health experts who said it could turn into a super-spreader as pilgrims return home to their towns and villages across India after attending the huge gathering. Similarly, a steep rise in COVID-19 cases and fatalities in West Bengal was seen when many health experts said that month-long political extravaganzas responsible for the spread of the coronavirus in urban as well as rural regions of the state of India.
Published in July 2021 Issue