Studies and clinical trials have shown that COVID-19 vaccines are effective in protecting people from the deadly virus. However, vaccine hesitancy still looms and threatens the efforts to stop the pandemic.

For many years, vaccination is one of the most successful public health interventions that led to eliminating and controlling deadly diseases that were once common, such as polio, smallpox, and measles.

But today, parental concerns about vaccine use are on the rise, especially on COVID-19 vaccines. Understanding and addressing vaccine hesitancy is important to achieve herd immunity and reduce transmission, reducing infections and death.

Protesters Rally Against 'Mandatory' COVID-19 Vaccinations
(Photo: Getty Images)
Protestors are seen at an anti-vaccination rally in Hyde Park on February 20, 2021, in Sydney, Australia. The protestors are demonstrating against mandatory COVID-19 vaccines. (Photo by Brook Mitchell/Getty Images)

Difference Between Vaccine Hesitancy and Anti-Vaxx

The World Health Organization (WHO) defines vaccine hesitancy as the "delay in acceptance or refusal of vaccines despite availability of vaccination services." It can be influenced by three factors, namely complacency, convenience, and confidence. Most people hesitant of vaccines could under-immunize themselves or their children instead of not getting the vaccine.

That means they are hesitant to take a specific vaccine but are willing to take other types of vaccine. They may lack confidence in the efficacy and the system it was delivered, or perhaps be too complacent on the perceived low risk of vaccine-preventable diseases, or blame the physical availability and affordability of the vaccine.

Vaccine hesitancy could also stem from concerns, misinformation or miscommunication, and past medical experiences. According to Medical News Today, individual factors like beliefs, values, knowledge, emotions, and risk perceptions could influence vaccine hesitancy. Bt historical, political, cultural, and social factors may also add to the list.

On the other hand, anti-vaccine people are actively against any vaccine. Anti-Vaxx Playbook published by the Center for Countering Digital Hate listed three key messages that anti-vaxx people promote. First, they believe COVID-19 is not dangerous; second, they believe healthcare workers of public health officials advocating for vaccines are untrustworthy; third, vaccines have negative health risks or are dangerous.

Moreover, these three key messages expand to other pervasive anti-vaxx messages, like claiming that alternative cures exist, vaccines violate individual civil rights, falsely questioning the efficacy of vaccines, claiming that taking the shots are immoral, claiming that vaccination campaigns are conspiracies against the people, and claiming that vaccines could cause other health conditions.

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Addressing Vaccine Hesitancy

According to The Pharmaceutical Journal, advice and recommendations from healthcare professionals are the most common reason for vaccine-hesitant people to change their minds. It is also one of the strongest predictors of people accepting vaccines.

Healthcare professionals must understand the factors that contribute to vaccine hesitancy and support patients in their decision-making process to guide them towards accepting vaccines. They should listen attentively, be proactive, prepare for conversations, and keep updated information about the vaccines.

Medical News Today emphasized that the delivery of information about vaccines from health experts should be in an empathetic way to prevent stigmatizing people who are hesitant to receive the shots. That means developing messages and acknowledging patient reasons to be hesitant to take the vaccine without judgment.

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Check out more news and information on COVID-19 Vaccines in Science Times.