‘Misinformation about vaccinations come in the way of campaigns’
We have seen improvement in vaccination rates over the past few years. Vaccine refusal is a worrying phenomenon and can derail public health prevention efforts. Underlying factors include lack of public services reaching beneficiaries in the area, distrust in the health system and misinformation or rumours about vaccination campaigns. For example, some think these are fronts for population control of specific communities.
The vaccination field has seen many controversies in India. Relatively recently, we have seen opposition to the pulse polio campaign in some parts of north India because of misinformation or rumours about the vaccination drives. Focused engagement with community leadership, mass media and house-to-house campaigns helped address this at the field level. We also had a controversy surrounding the HPV vaccine ‘trials’.
Immunisation efforts work best when there is significant coverage and the concept of herd immunity kicks in. We need to be as close to full coverage as possible to prevent outbreaks. Those most impacted are in rural or urban poor settings as they face risk factors like overcrowding, poor sanitation, paucity of accessible quality health services.
We think that this approach is coercive and not necessarily the best choice, both
in terms of impact and respect for rights. We suggest a focus on public engagement which can yield better long term rise in vaccination rates.
Researchers have worked on developing better vaccines which cover more disease strains, have lesser side effects, and require lesser doses. Vaccination policies also tend to work best when coupled with improved living standards and use of newer technologies to ensure last-mile delivery, leveraging maternal health, etc.