Vaccine hesitancy — an occurrence Indian health officials have encountered with several vaccines in the past such as polio, flu, etc — is now making an appearance on the Covid-scape as well. Respondents of the two surveys cited reasons such as “herd immunity among Indians” to “the worst of the pandemic being over” and “side-effects of the vaccine” for their reluctance.
“The percentage of citizens hesitant was at 61% in October, dropped to 59% in November, and rose to 69% in December,’’ said Sachin Taparia of LocalCircles, a community platform on social media which did one of the surveys.
The hesitancy is proportional to the Covid curve. Average caseload has reduced from 50,000 a day to 25,000 a day at the national level. “This, when combined with concerns about side-effects and vaccine efficacy, explains the vaccine hesitancy in India,” said Taparia.
In the second survey of 11,000 by GOQii, a fitness technology company, 53% were unsure about taking a Covid-19 vaccine (43% would take the final call after watching the initial results while 10% were firmly against it).
The GOQii survey found women were more resistant than men, with 48% of males willing as against 42% of women. Similarly, older adults (45-60 years) and seniors (over 60+) were not as ready as younger age groups.
Experts believe the vaccine is the quickest way to achieve herd immunity against Covid-19. “Many Indians will take the vaccine, only those with access to skeptical theories may oppose it,’’ said a doctor working for a public hospital.
Public health experts such as Dr Anant Phadke have asked the government to be more “transparent’’ about the results of the ongoing clinical trials for Covid-19 in order to reduce this hesitancy.
The expert opinion is that people cannot relax about the virus as cases worldwide continue to rise. Dr Shashank Joshi, who is a member of the state government’s task force on Covid-19, said it would take another four to eight weeks before Mumbai can relax about the second wave. “Although the Diwali peak didn’t occur, it is important to observe Covid-appropriate behavior such as wearing mask and frequently washing hands to ensure there isn’t another spurt,’’ he added.