Rural folk hesistant to undergo Covid-19 vaccine trials, say experts

Factors such as education level, fear of outcome affects attitudes; there is time to educate people, officials say

Published: 28th November 2020 05:19 AM  |   Last Updated: 28th November 2020 05:19 AM   |  A+A-

A technician at a Covid sample collection booth in Bengaluru takes off her PPE suit after her shift on Friday | Meghana Sastry

Express News Service

MYSURU: While many are closely watching the progress of Covid-19 vaccines, experts have flagged a pattern where a section of people may hesitate to take the vaccine over fear and concerns, which is referred to as vaccine hesitancy. In the case of Mysuru, where vaccine trials are underway at JSS Hospital, attitudes are starkly different between urban and rural people. While many people from urban areas are flocking to participate, those from villages are not keen and are hesitant to enrol themselves.

Vaccine hesitancy has been a matter of concern in the case of many vaccines in the past. The polio vaccine too faced such a hurdle.Notably, a recent study by United States Pharmacopeia about Covid-19 vaccination in low and middle income countries revealed that 40% of those surveyed said they want to wait and watch before getting vaccinated.

According to pro-vice-chancellor of JSS Academy of Higher Education and Research Dr B Suresh, a well-known researcher himself, those from villages are hesitant about the tests since they are worried about the outcome and its effects. Some even say "they are in a village, so it is unnecessary", Dr Suresh said."It depends on the education level as well. Those from urban areas and ones who travel are more open to it," he said. He pointed out that it is natural to have a section of people being hesitant to receive the vaccine since Covid-19 is a new disease.

In any case, he said, the distribution will take a long time. "By the time the vaccine production catches up and mass vaccination drives are undertaken, sufficient awareness can be created and by then it will become like a necessity eventually, like polio," he said.Divisional joint director of the Health and Family Welfare Department Dr B S Pushpalatha, who is handling eight districts, said that initial vaccine hesitancy is common.

"We had extensively tackled misconceptions and doubts as well as worries among the public during Measles-Rubella immunisation as well as polio. We will do it with Covid-19 as well," she said.She said that since the plan is to deliver the vaccine to health workers first and the drive for the public comes only after that, it gives them sufficient time to work out strategies.

Sources said that keeping in mind the concerns that emerge at the district and state level vaccine task force meetings, directions are being given to take into confidence religious and other influential leaders as well as private practitioners to aid the smooth delivery of the vaccine once it becomes a reality.

However, experts familiar with the matter pointed out that the Covid vaccine is that it is an adult vaccination drive unlike others.

"With most of the recipients being adults, the strategy needs to be different," said an expert, adding that the Japanese Encephalitis vaccination in states such as Uttar Pradesh is a good example.


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