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Only 1 or 2% of India’s population is vaccine hesitant: Prof Arora


The vaccine hesitancy is due to the insufficient information about the side effects of the vaccine, concerns regarding vaccine safety, and skepticism about some of the vaccines, he explained

India has the largest immunization program in the world, and at present the vaccine coverage of the country is 97 percent. Only one or two percent of the population is vaccine hesitant, said Prof NK Arora, chairman of India’s Covid-19 working group of the National Technical Advisory Group on Immunization (NTAGI).

“We need to proactively address the issue of vaccine hesitancy. It’s a constant issue,” Prof Arora said while addressing a session at the virtual roundtable organized by IAVI and DataLEADS to address vaccine mis- and disinformation. “A multidimensional diagnostic approach is required, and one has to constantly innovate and reinvent to address such issues. We must not wait for disruptions to occur.” 

Prof Arora, who is also the executive director of INCLEN Trust International, conceded that a small section of people in India have vaccine hesitancy.

Addressing the session, “Pre-empting concerns vis-a-vis emerging vaccine technologies, vaccine hesitancy, and misinformation,”  he said in India, people are more on the accepting side of the vaccine

But Prof Arora insisted that there are four critical dimensions that we need to focus on to address vaccine hesitancy and vaccine resistance. 

“The first dimension is healthcare workers. They are the face of our vaccine and services; they need to be masters in vaccinology. The second dimension is immunization-related issues and how transparently they are communicated. The third dimension is how our healthcare and public health system works, and how confident and trustworthy these systems are. Lastly, there is overall interaction with different cultures and people. All four dimensions have to be taken care of simultaneously,” he said. 

The major determinants of vaccine hesitancy, Prof Arora said, could be economical, political, scientific, and technological factors impacting human behavior and emotions. 

He recommended the adoption of a non-judgmental and non-partisan approach. “It’s important that we understand the viewpoint of people having vaccine hesitancy; we have to understand their perspective in a comprehensive manner,” Prof Arora said. “India has learned this the hard way, particularly with polio. The world never believed that we could eradicate polio, but we did.” 

Prof Arora traced the vaccine hesitancy to insufficient information about the side effects of the vaccine, concerns regarding vaccine safety, and skepticism about some of the vaccines. 

“In fact, people were waiting for doctors and even medical professionals. They wanted someone else to get the vaccine and then take it,” he said. “And once health workers started taking it, the barrier was broken.”

Prof Arora advocated the need for ‘Aatmanirbhar Bharat‘ in the field of health. 

COVID-19  has taught us that it is a part of national and global health security,” he said, adding that India, in fact, invested almost Rs 2500 crore during the last three years in transforming the ecosystem to manufacture vaccines in India. “Vaccine manufacturing cannot be set up overnight. The last 30 to 40 years of background work was already there. Therefore, things don’t occur overnight where I have a formula and can start manufacturing in six months.”

Also Read : IAVI-DataLEADS webinar: Experts advocate media literacy to combat vaccine misinformation