Recent evidence of the efficacy and safety of a number of COVID-19 vaccines under development has given hope that the pandemic may soon end.
However, in the first place, people must be willing to receive the vaccine.
A September 2020 poll found that only about half of US adults were definitely or likely willing to get vaccinated.
A quarter was likely unwilling and just under a quarter would not receive the vaccine, according to participants’ responses.
The investigation revealed that a key concern relates to the speed with which new vaccines are being developed. Many may wonder if the corners were cut in the safety tests.
Not so: according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the vaccines have undergone rigorous safety testing and monitoring for adverse effects will continue.
However, pervasive safety concerns could dissuade a significant number of people from obtaining the vaccination, delaying achievement of herd immunity and extending the time people are at risk for COVID-19.
Another problem is access. If vaccination is difficult, due to limited vaccination sites or cost issues, this could prevent immunization for many people.
To help address these concerns, the researchers behind this article have proposed five strategies that they say should be at the heart of the U.S. vaccination program.
First, the researchers propose that the vaccine should be free and easily accessible.
Even a small charge can discourage people from receiving the vaccine, and vaccination in a variety of places can reduce the “nuisance factors” that can act as a barrier.
Second, the researchers suggest making access to valuable places or services dependent on being vaccinated.
For example, if a person needs to be vaccinated to enter a workplace, community life facility, or even a movie theater, this could go a long way in normalizing immunization.
Third, the researchers propose that vaccines should be approved by trusted leaders.
This could involve corporate bosses, trusted politicians, and celebrities publicly receiving the vaccine. Researchers believe this tactic would be more effective than simply instructing people to get vaccinated.
Fourth, the researchers suggest giving priority access to people who sign up early for immunization.
They point out market research which indicates that people want a product more if they perceive it as scarce or believe that others will access it before them.
Fifth, the researchers propose that vaccination be presented as a public act.
In practice, this could be similar to wearing a sticker to indicate that you have voted or donated blood, or posting it on social media. The reasoning behind this demand for visibility, the researchers explain, is that our behavior often follows the behavior of others.
In addition to these five strategies, the researchers recommend that authorities present vaccination as only part of the overall response to the pandemic, which also involves social distancing, wearing masks and hand washing.
If a vaccine is seen as the only “savior,” people may be taking unwise risks after receiving it, the team explains.
Finally, the researchers suggest that a national non-political entity, similar to Project Warp Speed, be created to ensure that vaccination occurs quickly and in a coordinated manner.
This advice would also ensure that the vaccination push has a consistent and consistent message and provides transparent information on the safety and efficacy of vaccines.
According to the article’s senior author, Prof. Alison M. Buttenheim, of the University of Pennsylvania School of Nursing, in Philadelphia:
“This entity should include scientists from multiple disciplines (epidemiology, vaccine science, behavioral science, social marketing, communications) as well as vaccine program delivery experts.”
“The team should represent a spectrum of political views to de-politicize the response to the pandemic,” adds prof. Buttenheim.