Europe is experiencing an increasing circulation of influenza and respiratory syncytial virus (RSV), having a major impact on our health services and population this winter. In this context, he underlines how important it is for vulnerable groups to get vaccinated against influenza and Covid-19, as well as …
Europe is experiencing an increasing circulation of influenza and respiratory syncytial virus (RSV), having a major impact on our health services and population this winter. In this context, he underlines how important it is for vulnerable groups to get vaccinated against influenza and Covid-19, as well as for everyone to protect themselves and others from infection.
One of the difficulties is precisely the refusal of vaccination. A study conducted by UOC researchers, published openly in the scientific journal PLOS ONE, evaluated the reluctance to the Covid-19 vaccine in Spain during the spring-autumn 2021 campaign, both in the general population and in healthcare professionals, and provides information on how reduce it.
“The goal of this work was to make a faithful portrait of a specific moment — the first vaccination campaign against Covid-19 — to analyze what could be improved in the future.“, details Salvador Macip, doctor and professor in the department of health sciences at the UOC and director of the Cancer Mechanisms and Aging Laboratory at the University of Leicester. Macip participated in this work, led by Francesc Saigí Rubió, researcher at the UOC eHealth Center and director of the World Health Organization (WHO) Collaborating Center for Digital Health, Hans Eguia, PhD student in Science of health and professor in the Department of Psychology and Educational Sciences of the UOC and Marina Bosque, researcher at the eHealth Center and lecturer in the Department of Health of the UOC.
Context of doubts and suspicions
In the spring of 2021, a massive vaccination campaign of the general population began in Europe to counter the pandemic caused by Covid-19. The seriousness of the disease, the rapidity with which the various vaccines were made available to society and the distrust of pharmaceutical laboratories created a context of doubts and suspicions about these new drugs and their widespread application, which came to cause the rejection of these therapies by thousands of people.
Social networks were full of hoaxes and false information (fake news) with the aim of creating an atmosphere of mistrust towards vaccines and the new methods used for their production, such as messenger RNA technology. Specific cases such as blood clots, supposedly caused by inoculation with this innovative treatment, have even been raised to the general standard.
Reluctance to vaccinate
To carry out the study, during the spring of 2021, the experts interviewed more than 4,300 people through social networks, of which 500 were health professionals from different branches. At the time, 48.6% of participants in the general population were vaccinated against Covid-19 and 6.5% of the general population were reluctant to get vaccinated. However, as people aged, the percentage vaccinated increased.
“The younger or less educated were the most reluctant to get vaccinated, probably because they were the social group that perceived the least risk of having problems deriving from Covid-19, with which they saw the least benefit from the vaccine“, underlines the expert. In the same way, Macip says that the level of education and the fact of having medical knowledge “reduce reluctancebefore these innovative treatments.
For their part, in the case of health workers, the percentage of vaccinated against Covid-19 has risen to 95%. “Healthcare workers had more doubts about the vaccine’s efficacy and safety. However, they were the least reluctant to get vaccinated, perhaps because they better understood the consequences of not vaccinating and were more familiar with the general concept of a vaccine.“, Macip points out.
Another aspect that was evaluated during this work was the acceptance or rejection of the vaccine according to the laboratory that produced it. In this regard, most of the participants did not show a preference for any particular vaccine. However, people who have been vaccinated with Pfizer therapy have said they have done so with their own”preferred vaccine“.
In the case of Europe, for the campaigns conducted, vaccines based on messenger RNA, or mRNA, were preferred over the other types of therapies that were offered to the population at that time. Regarding the context that was perceived in those moments of the pandemic, the experts underline that “acceptance of coronavirus vaccination has not been affected by anti-vaccine movements or misinformation from some media outlets“.
Information to improve confidence in treatments
Although these data are not particularly negative, there is still a significant percentage of the population that refuses this type of vaccine. This group can put their well-being at risk and even create a public health problem. “Ignorance is what breeds the most reluctance. But good information can also outweigh the attraction generated by anti-vaccination networks“says the researcher.
According to the World Health Organization, in fact, vaccine refusal was a problem”frequent”, even before the pandemic, and is considered one of the top ten threats to global health.
To avoid this, the experts point out that truthful, contrasted, transparent and agile information is the most effective method to sensitize the population and minimize rejection and reluctance to this type of therapy. Indeed, it has been demonstrated that rejection and reluctance decrease during vaccination campaigns, understanding the functionality and effectiveness of this measure. “Information campaigns are essential. The more you know about a new drug, the less you fear it“, concludes Macip.