Dealing with vaccine hesitancy and eagerness is the next big challenge

 thehindu.com  01/13/2021 15:34:05 

With the COVID-19 vaccine rollout all set to begin on January 16, dealing with vaccine hesitancy and eagerness is the next big challenge for the State Health Department.

With a section of registered healthcare workers, who are the prioritised group for vaccination in the first phase, reluctant to take the jab, experts said that the State needs to understand the concerns that healthcare workers and the public have about COVID-19 vaccines, and combat them to build trust and confidence. It would need a multi-pronged strategy, with transparent communication being key, one of them said.

Fears of safety

C.N. Manjunath, nodal officer for labs and testing in the States COVID-19 Task Force, said addressing vaccine hesitancy  that could arise mainly because of apprehension around safety, efficacy, myths and misconceptions  is vital. At the same time, managing and mitigating any potential disappointment expressed by unmet demand for the vaccine or eagerness amongst people is equally important, he said.

Dr. Manjunath, who is part of the COVID-19 Technical Advisory Committee (TAC), cautioned against misleading information in the media, which can lead to a negative influence on the common man, creating confusion and fear, driving them away from getting vaccinated.

In the first week after vaccination starts, if no immediate adverse effects are reported, which is most likely, people will develop more confidence, he said.

Jawaid Akhtar, Principal Secretary (Health and Family Welfare), said dealing with vaccine hesitancy among healthcare workers may not be much of a problem. Healthcare workers are the ones who are quite aware about immunisation. There may not be a problem in the first phase. But we are ready with Information, Education and Communication (IEC) activities, he said.

Stating that the real challenge begins during the second and third phases when frontline workers and those above 50 with co-morbidities will be covered, Mr. Akhtar said an action plan will be put in place to ensure its acceptance.

Roping in celebrities

He said the government of India has come out with a communication strategy that supports the COVID-19 vaccine rollout. This strategy, that will serve as a guide to all States, seeks to build trust and enable greater confidence in the COVID-19 vaccine by employing transparency in communication, while also managing any mis/disinformation and rumours, he said.

State Deputy Director (Immunisation) Rajani Nageshrao said on the first day of the vaccination, a video message by a celebrity will be showcased in all the 237 centres where the Prime Ministers message will also be webcast.

Dear reader,

We have been keeping you up-to-date with information on the developments in India and the world that have a bearing on our health and wellbeing, our lives and livelihoods, during these difficult times. To enable wide dissemination of news that is in public interest, we have increased the number of articles that can be read free, and extended free trial periods. However, we have a request for those who can afford to subscribe: please do. As we fight disinformation and misinformation, and keep apace with the happenings, we need to commit greater resources to news gathering operations. We promise to deliver quality journalism that stays away from vested interest and political propaganda.

Support Quality Journalism

Dear subscriber,

Thank you!

Your support for our journalism is invaluable. Its a support for truth and fairness in journalism. It has helped us keep apace with events and happenings.

The Hindu has always stood for journalism that is in the public interest. At this difficult time, it becomes even more important that we have access to information that has a bearing on our health and well-being, our lives, and livelihoods. As a subscriber, you are not only a beneficiary of our work but also its enabler.

We also reiterate here the promise that our team of reporters, copy editors, fact-checkers, designers, and photographers will deliver quality journalism that stays away from vested interest and political propaganda.

Suresh Nambath

« Go back