The groundwork for public acceptance of a COVID-19 vaccine must be proactively started before a vaccine becomes available to maximize vaccination rates and ensure herd immunity.
DeRoo, S.S., Pudalov, N.J. & Fu, L.Y. Planning for a COVID-19 Vaccination Program. JAMA (2020). DOI: 10.1001/jama.2020.8711
18 May 2020
A long-term solution to the COVID-19 pandemic will likely involve a globally implemented vaccination program. However, the availability of a vaccine cannot guarantee broad immunological protection as any vaccine must be acceptable to the general public. Vaccine hesitancy has been a major barrier to vaccine uptake, and studies have suggested that 55-82% of the population must be vaccinated to achieve herd immunity against COVID-19. Given that certain individuals will be ineligible to receive the vaccine due to factors (e.g. age, immunocompromise), a vaccine refusal rate of over 10% could significantly hinder public health efforts. Recent surveys suggest that only three in four people would get vaccinated if a COVID-19 vaccine were available, and only 30% would be interested in receiving the vaccine soon after it becomes available. Accordingly, efforts to enhance public acceptance of a COVID-19 vaccine must be made proactively before a vaccine is made available. Firstly, a mass vaccination program can address obstacles to vaccine acceptance by using linguistically and culturally competent messaging. Secondly, public health officials must develop a vaccine education campaign using both traditional and social media, with an emphasis on addressing misinformation and using prominent social influencers. Thirdly, health care workers should be trained to make strong recommendations in favour of vaccines, as studies have shown that physicians are the most important influencers of vaccine decision-making.
Summary by: Spandana Amarthaluru