The vaccination program has been one of the methods in preventing diseases around the world with sufficient herd immunity. Before vaccines, many vaccine-preventable diseases (such as smallpox, polio, diphtheria, measles, and pertussis) outbreaks occurred, resulted in an increased mortality rate among children. The anti-vaccine movement has started in 1999 when a group of people refused to vaccinate and blamed the vaccines for health problems. World Health Organization (WHO) had defined vaccine skepticism or vaccine hesitancy as “a delay in acceptance or refusal of vaccines despite availability of vaccination services.” Since then, public health providers seek the method to dispel vaccine skepticism, as this is a complex issue that needs to be addressed properly.
The very top-level person in combating vaccine hesitancy is from the government to play their roles in managing public health interventions. This is to ensure correct information is distributed to prevent misunderstanding, apart from combating the myths about vaccination with scientific evidence. Prolong increase of vaccine hesitancy in society will become the top 10 threat in global health. If vaccine hesitancy is a leading cause of low vaccination rates in this country, law enforcement by the government could be one of the strategies to achieve herd immunity.
There are many factors of vaccine hesitancy which are lack of confidence in the effectiveness of vaccines, a complacency of the vaccine’s usefulness to fully prevent the disease, and the lack of convenience to get vaccination services especially in the rural communities. Vaccine hesitant parents are categorized into two groups; vaccine refusers who refuse all vaccine for their children and vaccine-hesitant who accepts few vaccines but still under-immunizing their children. Parental guidance and education about vaccines are very crucial, as they have the authority to determine the acceptance of vaccines for their children. Public health providers should also give clear explanations about the importance of children’s immunization program and be transparent about the side effects of vaccines.
In the post-truth era where emotions prevail over facts, effective communication is pivotal to convey the key messages about vaccines by employing all types of communication channels. Teachers, doctors, and childcare personnel are the best communication medium to educate and influence children and adolescents points of view about vaccination as it has a better chance of changing the mindsets of the younger generation. Discussion about immunization topics in a classroom for instance, can help them to have more sophisticated problem-solving abilities and become aware of health attitudes and behaviors.
Moreover, social media is a powerful source to spread true information but also the source of misperception about vaccines, which is why society needs to be educated with ways to filter the correct information and always confirm the facts first. Communicating effectively using evidence-based information could aid to counter misinformation from the internet. For example, social media campaigns with endorsements of information on televisions, mobile apps, and educational shows about immunization should be implemented to influence public opinion in the uptake of positive sides of vaccination.
In conclusion, vaccine skepticism is a complex and challenging issue that needs to be addressed properly and require continuous effort from every society age level to ensure correct message are well received. It is also important to carefully communicate the rare but real side effects of vaccines to enhance the credibility of anti-immunization rhetoric apart from increase awareness.
Maryam Azalan is a content writer under Headliner by Newswav, a programme where content creators get to tell their unique stories through articles and at the same time monetize their content within the Newswav app.
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