Tribune News Service
New Delhi, December 12
As nations gear for COVID-19 vaccinations, landmark new research has shown that factors related to implementation will contribute more to the success of inoculation plans than the vaccine’s efficacy as determined in clinical trials.
The findings based on mathematical simulation of vaccination say that the benefits of the COVID-19 vaccine will decline substantially in the event of manufacturing or deployment delays, significant vaccine hesitancy, or greater epidemic severity.
The research is a wake-up call for India and other Asian and African countries that have historically struggled with vaccine hesitancy, as seen in the fight against polio and HPV.
“There is an urgent need for health officials to invest greater financial resources and attention to vaccine production and distribution programmes, to redouble efforts to promote public confidence in COVID-19 vaccines, and to encourage continued adherence to other mitigation approaches, even after a vaccine becomes available,” says a new research published in Health Affairs, a leading health policy journal.
Based on the new findings, global vaccination experts including India’s Gagandeep Kang, have urged countries to start engaging communities for building public confidence in COVID vaccines.
In an authored article, “The COVID-19 vaccines rush: Participatory community engagement matters more than ever”, published in The Lancet, Kang and others have said: “Policymakers must accelerate dialogue and support the development of community networks, leveraging and supporting existing local channels that influence decision making, such as community and faith leaders, teachers, sports and youth clubs, and online communities and networks.”
Participatory community engagement is cost-effective, increases the uptake of vaccines, and substantially reduces health-care resources needed to achieve high vaccination coverage.
The global experts say a top-down, one-size-fits-all approach must be avoided as it has derailed countless global health solutions.
“In this new phase of the COVID-19 response, successful vaccine roll-out will only be achieved by ensuring effective community engagement, building local vaccine acceptability and confidence, and overcoming cultural, socioeconomic, and political barriers that lead to mistrust and hinder uptake of vaccines,” says Gagandeep Kang and co-authors.
They note that from the outset it is important for nations to distinguish between people wholly opposed to vaccination and individuals with limited or inaccurate health information and work to address the challenges.
HOW HESITANCY IMPACTS HEALTH PLANS
- In the UK a parliamentary report highlighted that more than 60 per cent of Black people did not believe their health was protected by the National Health Service to the same extent as White people
- Sudan’s Blue Nile Health Project (1980-90), a programme to control malaria and other diseases via mass drug administration had limited success and in some cases, transmission rates were higher after the campaign had ended than before it
- Uptake of immunisation programmes such as human papillomavirus, measles, mumps, rubella vaccines, has been influenced by vaccine hesitancy issues
- In Nigeria, polio eradication campaigns in 2003 were slowed down due to valid concerns about the motives of sponsors
- Successful immunization campaigns, such as India’s polio eradication efforts, are rooted in social mobilisation and vaccine acceptance.