From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :
Prelims level : Not much
Mains level : Paper 2- Dealing with vaccine hesitancy
Reluctance to take the vaccine has several implications. The misinformation around the vaccines needs to be fought through several measures.
Understanding vaccine hesitancy
- According to the World Health Organization, vaccine hesitancy is defined as a reluctance or refusal to vaccinate despite the availability of vaccine services.
- To date, two vaccines have been approved for inoculation in India: Pune-based Serum Institute’s Covishield and Hyderabad-based Bharat Biotech’s Covaxin.
- An adequate supply of vaccines is in place at least for the first phase, but the trickier part is to persuade the population for vaccination.
- Like Western nations, vaccine hesitancy has been a cause of concern in the past in India as well.
- Social media has seen a rising number of self-proclaimed experts who have been making unsubstantiated claims.
- The debates around hesitancy for COVID-19 vaccines include concerns over safety, efficacy, and side effects due to the record-breaking timelines of the vaccines, competition among several companies, misinformation, and religious taboos.
Need to adopt libertarian paternalism
- It is suggested that we adopt the idea of libertarian paternalism, which says it is possible and legitimate to steer people’s behaviour towards vaccination while still respecting their freedom of choice.
- Vaccine hesitancy has a different manifestation in India, unlike in the West.
- According to the World Economic Forum/Ipsos global survey, COVID-19 vaccination intent in India, at 87%, exceeds the global 15-country average of 73%.
- Instead of anti-vaxxers, the target audience must be the swing population i.e., people who are sceptical but can be persuaded through scientific facts and proper communication.
- The second measure is to pause before you share any ‘news’ from social media.
- It becomes crucial to inculcate the habit of inquisitive temper to fact-check any news related to COVID-19 vaccines.
- The third measure is to use the celebrity effect — the ability of prominent personalities to influence others to take vaccines.
- Celebrities can add glamour and an element of credibility to mass vaccinations both on the ground and on social media.
Consider the question “What is vaccine hesitancy? Suggest the measures to deal with it”
The infodemic around vaccines can be tackled only by actively debunking myths, misinformation and fake news on COVID-19 vaccines.