Express News Service
NEW DELHI: Waiting for others to get the Covid-19 vaccine first and fear of any adverse effects may still be putting a significant chunk of the population in India away from the vaccines, the first ever analysis on vaccine hesitancy in the country has shown. Though no concrete data on the percentage of people choosing to forgo vaccines is available, it has been estimated that in remote and rural areas, up to 10% people may be sceptical.
The analysis by the doctors attached with the Tata Memorial Centre in Mumbai said that distrust in the safety of recently approved vaccines, fear of adverse effects, and rumours concerning infertility and death as a result of the Covid-19 vaccine, among other causes, are fuelling hesitancy.
The authors noted that according to the Covid symptoms survey conducted in India, the top five reasons provided for not getting vaccinated included: waiting for others to get it first (42%), other individuals need it more than me (35%), fear of any adverse effect 34%, vaccines will not work (21%) and disbelief in the vaccine.
The researchers said that vaccine hesitancy is becoming a problem with very few possible solutions. Noting that the initiation of the CoWIN registration portal has significantly enhanced the vaccination campaign, they said that based on the reported statistics, vaccine hesitancy is rampant in remote areas and regions.
Pointing out that the lowering the cost of the vaccine for college students can be a beneficial way to reduce vaccine hesitancy, the researchers said that the government’s COVID-19 vaccination communication strategy has significant operational and structural flaws in its current form. “The second wave of infections disrupted capacity-building for communication management at the national, state, district, and sub-district levels,” said the paper.
Citing an international survey, the analysis said that vaccine acceptance rates were the highest in low and middle-income countries such as Ecuador (97.0%), Malaysia (94.3%), Indonesia (93.3%) and China (91.3%). On the other hand, high-income countries such as Kuwait (23.6%), Jordan (28.4%), Italy (53.7%), Russia (54.9%), Poland (56.3%), USA (56.9%), and France (58.9%) had the lowest acceptance rates. Government authorities say the vaccine hesitancy in India may be coming down with most of the available vaccines “proving their safety profile”.
Panel for removing export curbs
Barely weeks after the Centre curbed the export of Covid-19 rapid antigen testing kits, the Union health ministry, based on the recommendations of an empowered group, has suggested removing these restrictions. In a recent letter to the directorate general of foreign trade, the ministry said while RTPCR testing kits were added to the restricted category for export from June 2020, RAT kits too were restricted for export from August this year. An empowered group responsible for policy suggestions related to Covid-19 logistics , however, has decided to revoke the restrictions imposed on the kits and allow free export of these products, said the letter.