The rollout of Covid-19 vaccination is well underway, with more than 700 million doses given worldwide as of April 2021. Vaccination is highly effective at reducing severe illness and death from Covid-19. Vaccines for Covid-19 are also safe, with extremely low risks of severe adverse events. A major threat to the impact of vaccination in preventing disease and death from Covid-19 is low uptake of vaccines. In article published in the British Medical Journal, we give on overview of vaccine hesitancy and some approaches that clinicians and policymakers can adopt at the individual and community levels to help people make informed decisions about Covid-19 vaccination.
The World Health Organization defines vaccine hesitancy as a “delay in acceptance or refusal of safe vaccines despite availability of vaccine services.” It is caused by complex, context specific factors that vary across time, place, and different vaccines, and is influenced by issues such as complacency, convenience, confidence, and sociodemographic contexts. Vaccine hesitancy may also be related to misinformation and conspiracy theories which are often spread online, including through social media. In addition, structural factors such as health inequalities, socioeconomic disadvantages, systemic racism, and barriers to access are key drivers of low confidence in vaccines and poor uptake. The term vaccine hesitancy, although widely used, may not adequately convey these wider determinants that influence decisions to delay or refuse vaccination.