Vaccine Hesitancy Lower in Poorer Countries
People in low and middle income countries are more willing to get a COVID-19 vaccine than people in richer countries, a new study reveals. The finding suggests that prioritising vaccine distribution to these countries should yield high returns in expanding global immunisation coverage.
As vaccination campaigns to protect against COVID-19 continue, understanding and addressing hesitancy around vaccines is vital for ending the pandemic. The research provides one of the first insights into vaccine acceptance and hesitancy in a broad selection of low and middle income countries, including samples from Burkina Faso, Colombia, India, Mozambique, Nepal, Nigeria, Pakistan, Sierra Leone, and Uganda, as well as from the US and Russia.
The study published by an international research team in Nature Medicine shows willingness to get a COVID-19 vaccine was considerably higher in developing countries (80% of respondents) than in the United States (65%) and Russia (30%), suggesting that prioritising vaccine distribution to low and middle income countries, where it has lagged to date, should yield high returns in expanding global immunisation coverage.
Personal protection against COVID-19 was the main reason given for vaccine acceptance, and concern about side effects was the most common reason for vaccine hesitancy. Health workers are considered the most trusted sources of information about COVID-19 vaccines.
“Expressed acceptance rates of COVID-19 vaccines in low and middle income countries is high and if translated to vaccine uptake many countries could control infections rates and reduce mortality to a considerable degree,” said Julio S. Solís Arce, research fellow at the WZB and study co-author. “The challenge now is to improve distribution of vaccines to the Global South. Failure to extend vaccination globally would increase the risk of new variants and further infections and deaths, for both richer and developing countries.”
The researchers point out that vaccine acceptance may vary with time and the information that people have available to them. While the evidence on the safety and efficacy of available COVID-19 vaccines has become more clear in the last six months, severe, but rare, side effects may have undermined public confidence.