Combating vaccine hesitancy
Updated: Aug 24
We are in the middle of a global vaccination programme, the biggest in generations. The volume of information out there about each type could keep us busy for the next 10 lockdowns. But there can be no doubt about the vaccines - they are saving lives.
While variants of Covid-19 are being discovered, the statistics which are emerging, from countries with a vaccine rollout plan already in motion, demonstrate some clear positive takeaways. Cases may still be high, but the hospitalization rate is decreasing. Those who have been vaccinated and then tested positive are also reporting less drastic effects from the virus. Some scientists are even testing to see if the vaccine reduces transmissibility of Covid in those inoculated.
Furthermore, in a recent study in the UK, tracking more than 200,000 people, nearly every participant had developed antibodies against the virus within two weeks of their second dose. The initial concerns that the current vaccines may be less effective against emerging variants have also been allayed. With such positive statistics backing the vaccines, health professionals are encouraging people to get out there and get a vaccine, saying the risks of severe side effects from a vaccine are tiny in comparison to the risk of the disease itself.
That being said, a significant number of people are unsure about going for the injections. Press reports are putting vaccine hesitancy rates between 10-20% of people in the UK, 25% in New Zealand and as much as 50% of people in Japan. These figures pose significant risk to public health going forward, not to mention the return to some form of “normality”.
The majority of those who are hesitant do not have an alternative agenda, such as an anti-scientific cause, they are simply unsure about their choice to take the injection. Fortunately, psychologists argue these choices are often the result of many complicating factors which, if addressed sensitively, will help to reach population level immunity.
In even better news, scientists began studying vaccine hesitancy long before the coronavirus outbreak in December 2019. They have explored a range of models to better understand the differences in people's health behaviour. One was found to be particularly promising.
Confidence: the person's trust in the vaccines efficacy and safety, the health services offering them, and even the Government deciding on the rollout strategy
Complacency: whether or not the person considers the disease itself to be a serious risk to their health
Calculation: the individual's engagement in extensive information searching to weigh up the risks and benefits
Constraints: how easy it is for the individual to access the vaccine
Collective responsibility: the willingness to protect others from infection, through their own vaccination
Researchers in the United Kingdom applied the model to predict uptake of the Covid-19 vaccines earlier this year, and the results suggested that one or more aspects of the 5Cs model could explain the variation in people's decisions, essentially their hesitancy to commit to the vaccine.
There will be other contributing factors, of course. A recent study from the University of Oxford suggests that a fear of needles is a major barrier for around 10% of the population. Known as trypanophobia, this fear is driven by anxiety around many factors of receiving an injection. If you’d like to find out if you have a fear of needles, why not take oVRcome’s free test? You receive a customised report with some actionable tips for an individual's severity level.
So what can be done to address those concerns identified in the 5Cs model? It seems that continuing to provide the public with accurate information which will combat those worries will go a long way. And in the age of social media, the easier it is to digest, the better it will influence the population.
And for those who are hesitant because of a fear of needles, well oVRcome can help with that. Our recently launched 7 Day Challenge is available for a range of phobias. You can sign up and each day engage in content which has been designed to support you through your fears and help you on your way to a Covid vaccine.