In our previous article on vaccine hesitancy, we identified the ‘5Cs’ associated with a reluctance or refusal to accept vaccination. Vaccine inequity and vaccine hesitancy come together as “part of a complex matrix of social norms, economic concerns, historical factors, discrimination, issues with service delivery, and personal experiences”. We require cross-sector collaboration to overcome this. When we look back at the ‘5Cs’ we must acknowledge each cause and respond with a creative and compassionate approach.
The RSPH report Moving the Needle called for several actions in engaging and encouraging people to receive their vaccine. Some suggested efforts include improved vaccine education. It also included logistical concerns, such as offering vaccines in a more diverse range of locations. Although 95% of respondents to the survey suggested that the GP surgery was the most convenient place to receive a vaccination, more than half agreed that a hospital, community centre, or local pop-up facility is convenient.
What poses a greater threat to vaccine confidence? Are people hesitant because of inaccessibility or misinformation? The latter is arguably harder to tackle. Getting the public to trust their leaders when asked to take a vaccination requires confidence in the reliability and authenticity of the demand, particularly among those with lower levels of scientific literacy.
We cannot overemphasise the need for a stronger union between science and society. Communication between the developers, producers, and distributors of these vaccines, and the people expected to take them is confined to political paraphrasing. We need to allow the public greater insight into the reasons for vaccines, the processes of creating and testing them, and their benefits.
Dr Peter Hotez is a great example of this outreach. He is prolific on Twitter with measured and rational responses to challenges, questions, and insults. He speaks of a “political monster” that exploits and exacerbates vaccine hesitancy. This monster rages against reason with emotive and fantastical arguments, but what can be done to undermine its authority? Is the answer to make more noise?