Vaccines have eradicated smallpox: now how to eradicate vaccine hesitancy?

Submitted by Beatrice on Mon, 18/01/2021 - 12:29
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Vaccination is one of the most effective investments in global health: WHO reports that vaccines save 2–3 million lives each year, with a considerable potential for growth should worldwide coverage improve.

Immunisations not only protect children from debilitating, potentially life-altering or fatal diseases: they enable communities to grow healthier and wealthier, improve productivity, and allow us to safely travel the world. Thanks to the unfaltering work of researchers and healthcare workers, smallpox has been completely eradicated, and polio is likely to follow suit in the near future. However, the success of this strategy has recently been hindered by a new foe: not a bacterium or a virus, but our own fear, called “vaccine hesitancy”.

In 2014, the WHO and the Strategic Advisory Group of Experts (SAGE) on vaccine hesitancy officially recognised the threat that vaccine hesitancy poses and defined it as “the delay in acceptance or refusal of vaccines despite the availability of vaccination services”. Unfortunately, vaccine hesitancy has taken a strong, pervasive hold of certain communities.

It has already led to a resurgence in morbidity and mortality due to diseases that were kept under good control and on their way to being eliminated in several countries, such as measles, and has the potential to cause increasingly large, difficult-to-control outbreaks. 

Even during the current COVID-19 pandemic, despite the numerous concerns associated with the disease, the development and distribution of several vaccinal options have not been hailed with worldwide relief and enthusiasm, but rather met with scepticism or downright refusal by a large proportion of the global population.

In today’s precarious socio-political situation, an individual’s decision not to vaccinate can have a disproportionate domino effect, pulling precious threads from the fragile blanket that is herd immunity.

The reasons behind people’s choice not to vaccinate are multifaceted, and have been summarised by the WHO and SAGE with the 3Cs model:

  • Confidence in effectiveness/safety of vaccines, in the system that delivers them, and in the motivations of policy-makers
  • Complacency, where the risk of vaccine-preventable disease is perceived as too low to warrant a continued preventative action
  • Convenience in accessing the vaccine

Healthcare workers, particularly those who operate in the community, are the most trusted advisor and influencer of vaccination decisions. It is therefore paramount to support them with tangible, robust information, as well as with practical tools as to how to convey this information clearly and authoritatively to their patients.

Now, more than ever, is the time to remind the world’s population that being vaccinated is not only a right, but a duty towards society and towards those who cannot be immunised due to frailty or immune-related illnesses. Nature magazine published an editorial in 2019 with a perfectly encapsulating call to action: it is time to vaccinate against hesitancy. 

Find out how The Corpus can help you to run an effective online vaccine awareness campaign and provide physicians with the tools they need to eradicate vaccine hesitancy – whether you want to convert a face-to-face meeting into an online event, or are looking to plan a new, virtual meeting from scratch. Contact us on +44 (0)20 7428 2903 or fill out the contact form below.

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Vaccine hesitancy has taken a strong hold of certain communities and has the potential to cause increasingly large, difficult-to-control outbreaks. 

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The Corpus Content Team

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