Onus is now on governments to ‘build’ public confidence in Covid vaccines

PT Jyothi Datta Mumbai | Updated on January 18, 2021

Experts suggest information dashboards and no-fault compensation to address concerns

The countries are differentand so are the vaccines. But side-effects and deaths caused by vaccines are being reported from regions as varied as Norway and India, putting governments under pressure to prevent peoples’ confidence in the vaccine from sliding further.

Norway reported 29 deaths linked to the Pfizer vaccine, according to reports from the region, largely in the elderly with disorders. Officials in California are said to be mulling a pause in vaccination with the Moderna vaccine due to the high number of adverse reactions linked to the vaccine.

Both these vaccines are mRNA vaccines and are not being deployed in India.

But India, too, is seeing adverse event reports and deaths – be it the earlier incident involving a volunteer in Bhopal, or the latest death of a ward-boy in Modradabad, who was given the vaccine. Authorities have clarified in both cases that they were not linked to the vaccine, something the respective families do not agree with.

‘Need transparency’

The government will have to be transparent in its investigation on ‘causality’, and share these reports with the family, besides putting it in the public domain for people to understand and the scientific community to review, says vaccine expert Dr Vipin Vashishtha.

Deaths, or vaccine-induced diseases, are also seen in other vaccines given against measles or polio, he says. Confidence can be built only by quickly establishing whether or not it is linked to the vaccine and by having a vaccine injury compensation programme, a no-fault alternative as they have in the United States, where individuals are protected and not companies, he says.

If the number of adverse events and deaths are small in a large number of people vaccinated, that again builds in some confidence, he says.

Community social-media platform, LocalCircles, suggests that national, State and district-level dashboards be made available and popularised among people with information on the total vaccinated and adverse events reported. “Such steps will help build the confidence of people and address their hesitancy,” they said.

Their latest study found that vaccine hesitancy concerns among citizens continued to persist, despite the vaccination process getting under way. There was a 10 per cent decline in the percentage of hesitant citizens, from 69 per cent in December 2020 to 62 per cent in January 2021, they said.

“Unknowns on the side effects front continue to be a key concern amongpeople and top reason for hesitancy,” the platform pointed out.

Published on January 18, 2021

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