London, Oct 21: Scientists have found that many people around the world are ‘hesitant’ about a Covid-19 vaccine and the reason is strongly related to lack of trust in their government.
In a study, published in the journal ‘Nature Medicine’, the research team validated sample of over 13,400 individuals from 19 countries, including India, that have been hard-hit by the virus and found that 72 per cent of participants would likely take the vaccine.
Of the remaining 28 per cent, 14 per cent would refuse, while 14 per cent would hesitate, which translates into tens of millions of potential vaccine avoiders.
Till date, more than 90 Covid-19 vaccines are in development, half of which are in human trials.
In addition to addressing the formidable challenges of developing a safe and effective vaccine, producing it on a large scale, and distributing it equitably, health authorities worldwide must now consider the added obstacle of vaccine hesitancy.
“We found that the problem of vaccine hesitancy is strongly related to a lack of trust in government. Vaccine confidence was invariably higher in countries where trust was higher,” said study author said Jeffrey V. Lazarus from Barcelona Institute for Global Health (ISGlobal).
“We need to increase vaccine confidence, and we need to improve the public’s understanding of how they can help control the spread of Covid-19 in their families and their communities,” one of the researchers said.
According to the data, the country with the highest score of positive responses to “taking a proven, safe and effective vaccine” was China (87 per cent), which also had the lowest percentage of negative responses (0.7 per cent).
On the other end, Poland had the highest number of negative responses (27 per cent), while the Russian respondents gave the lowest number of positive responses (55 per cent).
A relatively high tendency toward vaccine acceptance in middle-income countries, such as Brazil, India and South Africa, was also observed.
In the US, 76 per cent of respondents answered positively, 11 per cent were negative, and 13 per cent had no opinion.
When asked if “you would accept a vaccine if it were recommended by your employer and was approved safe and effective by the government,” 32 per cent of respondents completely agreed, while 18 per cent somewhat or completely disagreed.
Vaccine acceptance also varied with age (with higher acceptance among older people as compared to those aged under 22), income, or education level.
Curiously, people who had fallen sick with Covid-19, or whose relatives had fallen sick, were not more likely to respond positively.
“These findings should be a call to action for the international health community. If we do not start building vaccine literacy and restoring public trust in science today, we cannot hope to contain this pandemic,” the authors wrote.