What is vaccine hesitancy?
Vaccine hesitant is a term used to refer to someone who is either delaying or rejecting vaccinations despite availability or accessibility (Olson). Being vaccine hesitant refers to a mind set around getting vaccinated and not whether someone is or isn’t vaccinated. Someone could be vaccinated and still be considered vaccine hesitant if they were unsure if they were going to get it.
How is Vaccine Hesitancy Dangerous?
Vaccine hesitancy is dangerous to the unvaccinated individual as well as the greater public. Refusal or delay of vaccination is linked to the reemergence of infectious diseases and an increased likelihood of catching said disease, for the whole community (Community-Based Organizations). As vaccination rates climb, the percentage of parents who refused some vaccinations has also increased. The decline in infectious disease cases due to vaccinations has created the impression that the diseases are becoming less harmful or are treatable in other ways. The American Academy of Pediatrics reported that the percentage of parents who refused some vaccines almost doubled between 2006 and 2013, and that about 1 in 5 parents requested to delay vaccination (Badur). Vaccine hesitancy not only risks lives, but also has an economic impact. Low vaccine confidence causes high healthcare costs, productivity losses, and increased overall spending in the public health sector of healthcare (Badur). It is estimated that a 5% reduction in measles, mumps, and rubella (MMR) vaccination in the US would add a cost burden of USD 2.1 million to the annual public sector’s healthcare expenditures (Elflein). According to the Biden Administration, convincing Americans to take a COVID-19 vaccines worth around 1.5 billion dollars (“Reducing Vaccine Hesitancy”), making vaccine hesitancy a top issue in the US and globally.
What causes vaccine hesitancy?
There are four main reasons why someone may become vaccine hesitant:
- Some religions don’t believe in vaccinations because of the process in which they were created (the morality of the process), favoring “natural” vs “artificial” medicine, and refusing of preventative measures in favor of curative ones (Evans).
- In many situations, science and religion are seen as polar opposites and in conflict. So when vaccinations come out and are seen as life saving triumphs of science, some individuals choose to reject them in favor of their faith (Ruijs).
- Only four states in the US do not offer exemptions for vaccinations on the base of religion. This causes significant issues for childhood vaccination rates (Evans).
- Personal beliefs or philosophy
- Personal beliefs/philosophy differs from religion, because it is based on one’s opinions rather than those dictated by a religion.
- Some people hold beliefs such as
- natural immunity is better for their children than immunity acquired through vaccinations (McKee).
- the diseases for which we vaccinate are not prevalent so their children are at minimal risk of contracting these diseases.
- The diseases would be easily treatable, therefore vaccinations are not necessary (McKee).
- Lack of information/desire for more information
- While personal beliefs can deal with misinformation or lack of knowledge, the desire for more information stands out as its own reason for vaccine hesitancy
- In this case a lack of information is characterized by the desire for more information before making a decision. People who are vaccine hesitant because they desire more information typically want to make informed decisions and don’t feel like they have the right information to make these decisions (Badur).
- Lack of information goes hand in hand with feeling like you can ask your doctor about vaccinations and have other reliable sources of information.
- Safety concerns
- Some people who are vaccine hesitant are so because they are concerned about the safety of getting vaccinated.
- Most often people with safety concerns are getting their information from the media or other people. They are being bombarded with other’s opinions and are having trouble forming their own (Why We Need to Fight )
- People who only get their vaccination information from news sources (more specifically tabloids or other places looking for clickbait) and stories from others are more likely to have safety concerns (COVID-19).
- This is because the stories that are being reported are stories that will catch someone’s eye and tend to focus only on negative side effects (Germani).
Check out these video clips for more information!
What is Misinformation?
Here is a very helpful video clip from TED-Ed explaining misinformation, its origin, and how it played a crucial role in the emergence of the anti vaccination movement.
Social Media Listening
Image detailing how to approach information on social media courtesy of the WHO
So what can we do?
Share! Spread this information! Increase awareness on the dangers of misinformation and encourage others to fact check their sources. Actively fighting misinformation about vaccinations will in turn reduce the rates of vaccine hesitancy that we see in the US. Stopping the spread of propaganda and misinformation around vaccinations lies in the accessibility of reliable information to the general public. Ultimately, the key to reducing vaccine hesitancy is by eliminating misinformation, and the only way to fight misinformation is with correct information. As a part of the continued efforts to eradicate misinformation, I created two infographics that educate the public on vaccine hesitancy (and how to eliminate it), how to find reliable information, and the dangers of misinformation. I created thesis infographics to be easily understandable, accessible, and shareable. While these two infographics are a start, a larger solution is needed. One idea that I had was a whole database of information like that on the infographics; All verified, all supported by evidence, and accessible to all. This website would serve as a pool of information and a place where people can ask questions, start conversations, and educate themselves all without feeling ashamed or ridiculed for their beliefs.
If the images are not loading, try this link!
Thank you for taking the time to read over my project. Were you aware of vaccine hesitancy before you saw my project? Did my research make you reconsider your own opinions on vaccinations? What steps do you think are necessary to combat misinformation of all kinds and more specifically misinformation about vaccinations? Leave a comment below with your thoughts and ideas for possible further research/ I look forward to hearing from you and thank you for your time!