A lesson from polio vaccination to address hesitancy for COVID-19 vaccine

Our Bureau Ahmedabad | Updated on September 25, 2021

Vaccine Hesitancy is majorly context-specific influenced by several factors like misinformation, conspiracy theory

In order to overcome the prevailing vaccine hesitancy for COVID-19, experts have found a solution in the polio vaccination experience.

Vaccine hesitancy is mostly influenced by factors such as misinformation, trust deficit, trypanophobia - a phobia arising from the fear of injections or needles besides the active lobbying by anti-vaxxers portraying a conspiracy theory around vaccines.

Speaking at a Policy Dialogue to Mitigate COVID Vaccination Hesitancy, organised by SD Gupta School of Public Health at IIHMR University, Jaipur, N K Arora, Chairperson NTAGI - covid 19 working group recommended a proactive social mobilization strategy for rebuking the rumours around vaccines.

On the multi-phase project, Synthesis and Translation of Research and Innovations in Polio Eradication (STRIPE), Anna Karlbarcyzk, Assistant Director, Johns Hopkins Centre for Global Health, USA, informed that it aims to map, package, and disseminate knowledge from polio eradication initiatives, using an implementation science lens.

STRIPE collaborates with Johns Hopkins University and seven international consortium partners in Afghanistan, Bangladesh, DRC, Ethiopia, India, Indonesia, and Nigeria.

Vaccine hesitancy

S D Gupta, Chairman, IIHMR University, commented that Vaccine Hesitancy is majorly context-specific influenced by several factors like misinformation, conspiracy theory of anti-vaxxer, trust deficit group, vulnerable/hard to reach groups showing indifference towards the vaccine.

"A robust monitoring framework led interpersonal communications could be instrumental in fastening the COVID vaccination in India," he added.

Former senior advisor to UNICEF Sanjiv Kumar informed that the vaccine hesitancy was addressed during routine immunization of children and women to achieve universal child immunization in 1990 and achieve polio elimination.

"The factors contributing to vaccine hesitancy vary from community to community hence need to be addressed locally with community leaders' engagement," he said.

Lauding the Government of India's '107 Block Plan' for polio that helped in removing the vaccine hesitancy in Uttar Pradesh and Bihar, Svea Closser, Associate Professor of International Health, Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, USA, stated that the vaccine hesitancy in those areas was largely driven by the mismatch between frequent, well-funded polio campaigns and under-resourced health systems.

Experts also noted that Lessons learned from Polio Eradication campaigns in India in adopting communication for development as core program implementation strategy, government ownership, technical advances in choice of vaccines, social mobilization, private partnership, and innovations in program delivery will be beneficial.

Also, what is required to be addressed is the systemic issues like income, education, food and social security surrounding COVID vaccination and vaccine hesitancy must be addressed.

Published on September 25, 2021

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