Vaccine hesitancy has become a global issue in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic. Although unequal global distribution of vaccines remains a major challenge for the Global South, it alone cannot fully explain the low vaccination rates in many countries. Vaccination hesitancy has existed for centuries and, while it currently affects mainly the Global North, it can increasingly become a problem in the Global South. Vaccine acceptance is not only critical to achieve public health and safety through herd immunity, but also to protect individual health and especially vulnerable groups. In 2019, the World Health Organisation (WHO) rated vaccine hesitancy as one of the greatest threats to global health. Low rates of COVID-19 vaccine acceptance have been reported in the Middle East, Russia, Africa and Europe. In Africa, numbers vary widely. About one third of the population in France, Germany and the USA refuses COVID-19 vaccination. Once the jab becomes widely available in the Global South, vaccine hesitancy could be a major challenge controlling this pandemic.
REBUILDING TRUST AS A KEY RESPONSE
To improve vaccination rates and overcome societal divisions amplified by the pandemic, it is crucial to (re)establish trust. Four essential pillars can help strengthen declining public trust in the intentions and motives of the government: humanity, transparency, capability and reliability. How can governments achieve this?
First, by showing humanity governments are perceived as genuinely caring for people’s experiences and wellbeing. This includes showing value and respect for everyone, regardless of their background, identity or beliefs. Empathy is the basis for a true exchange. Regarding vaccine-hesitancy, this means governments should not exclusively try to convince through distant laws, bureaucracy and regulations. They also need to engage with those unwilling to get the vaccine in an open and empathic dialogue, trying to understand their worries and misconceptions. The Latino Task Force, a community organisation in San Francisco, has been successful in directly engaging with the most affected groups to promote vaccination.
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This publication first appeared on the DIE site.
Authors: Johanna Vogel and Aline Burni (DIE).
The views are those of the authors and not necessarily those of ETTG.