With more than 90% of countries reporting vaccine hesitancy, the World Health Organization declared in January 2019 that it was one of the top ten threats to global health.
According to WHO, vaccine hesitancy is a “delay in acceptance or refusal of vaccines despite availability of vaccination services” WHO states that addressing vaccine hesitancy requires not just an understanding of the magnitude of this problem but also a diagnosis of the root causes, tailored evidence-based approaches to addressing hesitancy, and monitoring and evaluating the interventions.
In addition, with technology and social media booming over the last decade, online platforms have become a go-to outlet for vaccine-hesitant individuals to share misinformation about vaccines. One study found a significant relationship between organized anti-vaccine messaging on social media and public doubts of vaccine safety. In a second study, the authors conclude that as social media platforms gain increasing popularity globally, public health professionals are increasingly concerned regarding the impact of anti-vaccination content on downstream vaccine denial. This further threatens the uptake of emerging vaccines such as COVID-19.
Factors affecting vaccine hesitancy
Social and behavior change (SBC) professionals have often been tasked to find ways to influence knowledge, attitudes, and practices, about vaccines. Now that the COVID-19 vaccines are becoming available worldwide, renewed emphasis and urgency for SBC efforts arise.
To that end, WHO has offered three factors that play a role in vaccine hesitancy, the first two of which can be addressed by SBC:
- Complacency: Low perceived risk of vaccine-preventable diseases, and vaccination not deemed necessary. Other life/health issues are a greater priority.
- Confidence: Low levels of trust in vaccines, in the delivery system, and in health authorities
- Convenience: Barriers related to geographic accessibility, availability, affordability, and acceptability of services
To respond to each of these factors, SBC programs can disseminate correct information in a way that is clear and straightforward.
This Trending Topic
In this Trending Topic we provide a selection of SBC research, tools, and examples that aid in understanding this issue, especially in light of the recent availability of COVID-19 vaccines and the urgency for immunization worldwide.
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