Covid-19 Pandemic: Part 7: Understanding Vaccine Coverage & Vaccine hesitancy

Published on
Thu Jun 09 2022
Share This Article

Published in April 2022

In this paper we have discussed vaccine coverage that is not satisfactory and why there is vaccine hesitancy and how to address it. Despite clear evidence and data in favor of the vaccine, the vaccine coverage is not as per the targets set by the Government and how hesitancy and not technical reasons can reduce the public health impact is discussed in the paper. Possible hesitancy points commonly offered are then addressed with the aim to remove the hesitancy from the community members.

We discussed the historical context of Covid-19 pandemic, followed by the signs, symptoms and how it affects our body, various diagnostic tests, the virus and its variants, general measures of protection and types of vaccines and their doses. In this month’s edition we discuss vaccine coverage and some of the reasons why we observe vaccine hesitancy and how to overcome them. 

By end of the month of March, we have been able to observe substantial decline of Covid-19 in the USA as well as in the state of Arizona and Maricopa County. There is overwhelming evidence that vaccine and booster dose help to prevent disease and deaths (see figure 1). This is a big relief. However, we need to remain cautious with a low coverage of vaccine in African continent and low coverage of vaccine among children in the USA as well as in our state and county. 

Vaccine Coverage in the Country, State and County: One or More Doses

The USA has 77% of people who received one or more doses and ranks 15th in the world. State of Arizona stagers behind the Country average at around 72% and Maricopa County stagers behind the country and the state at 65% as of mid-March when this goes to the press. This means 1/3rd of Maricopa County population has not received even the first dose two years after the epidemic has devastated us! These figures fail to tell us the true story since the vaccine coverage is very different by the age group as well as by ethnicity. Children below the age of 20 are vaccinated only at 31%. (See figure 2). The fact that vaccine coverage from 58% to 61% level increase took 3 months gave us idea of vaccine hesitancy to a great extent and the progress for vaccination coverage needs much more than mere making vaccine available. We need to understand and address the causes of vaccine hesitancy. 

What is Vaccine Hesitancy? Why Some People Are Reluctant to Get Vaccinated?

Vaccine Hesitancy means any delay in acceptance or refusal of vaccines despite availability of vaccine services. This is a complex and context specific issue and varies over time, place, and vaccines. It is also influenced by factors such as complacency, convenience, and confidence. 

Despite Covid-19 vaccines available and free within our area, some people are reluctant to accept vaccines due to various thoughts. They are entitled to have doubts about the vaccine, and we need to educate and bring them to make their own informed choice to opt for the vaccination. Sources of information needs to be authenticated and reliable. Misinformation is very common and sometimes intentionally prevents the adequate use of the vaccine. Some people have doubts of vaccine efficacy, others mistrust the source of information, some believe that the vaccines are rushed and therefore not safe, some fear that they may affect their genes and may interfere with their fertility or DNA, and such various concerns exist in the minds of people. So let us get those things clear in our mind from World Health Organization and CDC, the two pillar organizations that care for Global and American People’s health at their highest priorities. 

The COVID-19 vaccine was created quickly but was carefully tested for safety. 

It is a matter of pride that vaccines for Covid-19 were created in a historically short time. There are no corners cut in the process and highest level of safety measures are taken in developing vaccine and ensuring the efficacy and safety even though the process which generally goes sequential were run parallel for Covid-19 vaccine and that allowed vaccine to be developed in historically shorter time and without the bureaucratic delays that are normally present. 

Getting the COVID-19 vaccine can protect you from getting sick

There is a possibility that despite being vaccinated, you may still get Covid-19 infection (called breakthrough infection) since vaccine is not 100% effective; however, the vaccine protects you from getting severely sick, getting hospitalized and/or severely disabled, and from dying. ADPH has shown that with data (See fig 1).

COVID vaccine side effects are temporary and do not mean you’re sick

Vaccine does give you some of these side effects: pain, fever, redness at the site of injection, tiredness, headache, muscle pain, chills, nausea. These side effects mean vaccine is developing immunity in our body. Side effects are temporary and not serious, and they go away in a day or two. Covid-19 Vaccine does not contain live virus.

Covid-19 Vaccines are free for everyone

Covid-19 vaccines are free of cost and independent of your health insurance coverage. Anyone present in USA, as citizens, visitors or undocumented, all are eligible for free vaccination at all the places in the USA. They are available in most cases within one mile area into the nearest pharmacy as well as all community health clinics. 

If you’ve already had COVID-19, getting the vaccine will add extra protection

Even if you had Covid-19 infection, the immunity developed with the natural infection is not strong enough and taking vaccination gives you extra layer and powerful layer of protection and therefore you are recommended to take the vaccine course after you are recovered from natural infection. 

Getting vaccinated for COVID-19 helps others in your community

Getting vaccinated protects us from getting infected and diseased. When more members of the community get protected the community members who are more vulnerable with old age or illnesses like diabetes or cancer, are less likely to catch the disease from the community as herd immunity improves. 

The chances of getting back to normal life is better when we reach a good coverage of vaccine. If you are young and without any disease, you still need to get vaccinated since Covid-19 disease can occur to anyone and almost 20% to 30% develop long term Covid-19 effects while vaccines protect you from them. 

Covid-19 vaccine does not affect the fertility and is safe during pregnancy

CDC recommends and has ensured safety for the vaccine to be taken for pregnant ladies and those planning for pregnancy. Vaccine does not affect in any way the pregnancy or future fertility. In fact, protection from the Covid-19 infection is more valuable for pregnant women. 

Covid-19 Vaccine Do not affect your DNA or do not change your genetic material in any way

Covid-19 vaccine act locally into the muscle mass and sensitize cells to produce spike proteins and then soon clears them from the site. They do not enter DNA of cells and do not affect DNA or genetic material.

Coming Up

Next month, we will discuss variations in vaccine coverage globally and the dangers related to that. We will also discuss herd immunity and its role in the epidemic control. 

We Act Together

Don't wait. Let's act today to protect our families and community from Covid