Researchers call on governments and health actors to build public trust on vaccines

Researchers are calling on governments and others to invest in building public trust for vaccination so that communities are involved, understand the issues and feel confident about vaccine deployment. Based on a review of previous vaccine deployments, research shows that if governments try to coerce people into receiving vaccines, this could backfire, damage trust, induce hesitancy and entrench resolve against vaccination. Chances of success are greater if governments ensure vaccines are administered by trusted local actors including include professional healthcare personnel, and in some circumstances, nonbiomedical practitioners such as community health workers.

The Social Science in Humanitarian Action Platform (SSHAP) reviewed the evidence and interviewed experts on vaccine hesitancy and confidence and the potential impact on the COVID-19 vaccine deployment.

The widespread deployment of vaccines is partly dependent on whether populations have trust in their governments, according to studies. This means that while providing consistent and scientifically accurate information can mediate some vaccine hesitancy, vaccine confidence may not improve unless clear efforts are made to increase public trust. Vaccine hesitancy varies between and within nations and social groups.

Studies show lower COVID-19 vaccine confidence amongst ethnic minorities such as Black US Americans who have faced historic and systemic oppression and have consequential mistrust in state intentions. Misinformation is more likely to have traction among communities that have experienced discrimination, neglect and abuse. According to the Royal Society and British Academy (2020), 80-90% of the population require the vaccine for it to stem the pandemic.

Vaccine hesitancy is not just about fringe groups such as anti-vaxxers. Many people have real concerns about COVID-19 vaccines. Without transparent, clear and compelling communication about what they are, how they are being tested, why they are important, and what the public can expect from them, rumors will continue to emerge as people strive to fill in knowledge gaps. Publics must be meaningfully engaged in decision-making and planning. This will be critical for improving vaccine confidence and trust in the government and overall public health response.  

It is very welcome news that at last vaccines have been identified that have impact in containing COVID-19. However, the success of the vaccines in stopping this global pandemic rely on governments investing as much in vaccine confidence as deployment. As our research shows, building trust in government and the public health response will be critical components to the take-up of the COVID-19 vaccine.”

Professor Melissa Leach, Director of Institute of Development Studies and co-principal investigator of Social Science in Humanitarian Action Platform

SSHAP is a partnership between the Institute of Development Studies, Anthrologica and London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine. The authors of the SSHAP Rapid Review: Vaccine Hesitancy and Building Confidence in COVID-19 Vaccination are Tabitha Hrynick (IDS), Megan Schmidt-Sane (IDS) and Santiago Ripoll (IDS).

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The opinions expressed here are the views of the writer and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of News Medical.
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