Four in 10 adults above 70 show reluctancy to vaccine: Study
Four in 10 unvaccinated adults above the age of 70 were hesitant to take the shot against the coronavirus disease (Covid-19), a survey commissioned by the government has said, highlighting the need for effective messaging on the ground among the target population group.
The survey, conducted over the phone with 4000-plus participants, also found that 57% of the unvaccinated in the 70-plus age group were concerned with the safety or efficacy of the vaccine and 29% thought they were too old to receive the vaccine.
Individuals are considered vaccine-hesitant if they are unwilling or unsure about getting vaccinated.
Experts have been emphasising the need to counter vaccine hesitancy, especially among the elderly who are at high risk for developing severe forms of viral illness. According to the Union health ministry data, barely 50% of India’s population of 138 million people above the age of 60 have received at least one vaccine dose.
Dr AB Dey, head of geriatrics department at the All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS), Delhi, said the survey participants were among those already enrolled across 18 states and Union territories for Longitudinal Ageing Study of India (LASI)
New Delhi’s AIIMS was assigned as the nodal centre for LASI, a study commissioned by the health ministry in 2016 to track ageing patterns and diseases affecting India’s elderly.
“As part of the longitudinal ageing study, we have a database of participants, and we made use of this database for this phone survey. We had their contact details as part of the larger study cohort and made use of it as the sub-sample. People were called and made to answer questions, especially designed keeping this survey in mind,” said Dr Dey, head of geriatrics department at the All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS), Delhi.
For the survey, apart from the participants, a family member or friend was also interviewed whom the participants nominated as informants.
“The Covid-19 pandemic has fundamentally altered the lives of individuals across the world, including India,” said excerpts from results documented as part of the survey that HT has accessed.
The survey underlined that some of the top reasons for vaccine hesitancy in India were concerns around its safety and effectiveness, being able to protect self, mistrust in government and companies, and being too old to receive the vaccine. It said extra attention may be needed to reach high levels of vaccination among one of the highest at-risk groups — older generations.
“Even before the start of the Covid-19 vaccination drive, the states were advised to focus on both the problems of vaccine hesitancy and vaccine eagerness. Several awareness campaigns were held by ground-level workers at the community level in all states,” said a senior government official aware of the matter, on condition of anonymity.
Public health expert Dr Chandrakant Lahariya said it is important to get to the root cause of vaccine hesitancy to be able to successfully deal with the issue. “It needs to be a thorough exercise done keeping in mind people belonging to different sections of society, residing in different areas, and age groups as persons belonging to different population groups will have a different reason for being hesitant about it,” said Dr Lahariya.