Coronavirus – Health and Governance Issues

Addressing vaccine hesitancy


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Not much

Mains level: Paper 2- Dealing with vaccine hesitancy

The article deals with the issue of vaccine hesitancy and its consequences.

Why vaccinate?

  • The primary purpose of vaccination is to protect individuals against severe infection.
  • Vaccination also protects populations by providing ‘herd immunity’, if done on a large scale.
  • Globally, vaccinations against polio, small pox, meningitis and so on have seen huge success.

Need to address the vaccine hesitancy

  • The results of a 2020 Gallup poll, conducted before the vaccine roll-out reveals that 18% of the Indian said that they won’t take the vaccine.
  • But vaccine hesitancy has gone up in India since then, due in part to largely overblown reports of complications or even deaths.
  • The consequences of vaccine hesitancy are disastrous.
  • If herd immunity does not develop, disease outbreaks and pandemics will prevail.
  • The slower the vaccination rate, the wider the spread of infection and the greater the chances of mutations and the emergence of new variants.

Factors driving vaccine hesitancy

  • The influencing factors include a lack of awareness of the extent of benefits.
  • Fears based on inaccurate information.
  • Lack of access to vaccine.
  • Disinformation, especially on social media.
  • Other factors include civil liberty concepts, cost, cultural issues, and various layers of confidence deficit.

Way forward

  • To allay vaccine fears, our messaging needs to focus on simple facts.
  • Before attempting to persuade people, we need to understand the basis of their fear, hesitancy and the anti-vax attitude.
  •  By challenging untruths, we inadvertently feed the perception that we are actively suppressing the “real” truth.
  • The objective now should be to reach more people faster with a message that doesn’t just provide more science but includes guidance.
  • Providing practical information through social media, alternatives to apps for those lacking easy access to vaccines, and taking the help of well-informed frontline workers will all help.


The possibility of a significant number of people not getting vaccinated thwarts our collective ability to reach the herd immunity threshold against Covid-19. Therefore the issue of vaccine hesitancy needs to be urgently addressed.

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