People who delay or refuse vaccines for themselves or their children are presenting a growing challenge for countries that want to to close the immunization gap, according to the World Health Organization. WHO calls the movement to delay or refuse safe vaccinations "vaccine hesitancy" and evaluated the idea in a special issue of the journal Vaccine. In the issue, experts review the role of vaccine hesitancy in limiting vaccine coverage and explore strategies to address it.
About1 in 5 children worldwide do not receive routine immunizations. An estimated 1.5 million children die each year of diseases that can be prevented by vaccines.
Vaccine hesitancy is an issue that is complex and that varies with time, place, and between different vaccines, WHO said in a statement. It is influenced by factors such as misinformation, complacency, convenience and confidence.
"Vaccines can only improve health and prevent deaths if they are used, and immunization programs must be able to achieve and sustain high vaccine uptake rates. Vaccine hesitancy is an increasingly important issue for country immunization programs," says Dr Philippe Duclos, Senior Health Adviser for WHO's Immunization, Vaccines and Biological Department and guest editor of the special issue.
"As the recent Ebola crisis tragically brought to light, engaging with communities and persuading individuals to change their habits and behaviors is a lynchpin of public health success. Addressing vaccine hesitancy is no different," an editorial in the issue stated.
Concerns about vaccine safety can be linked to vaccine hesitancy, but safety concerns are only one of many factors that may drive hesitancy. It can be caused by myths (e.g. that vaccination of women leads to infertility), misinformation, and mistrust in the health care professional or health care system, as well as concerns about vaccine safety.
There is no single intervention strategy that works for all instances of vaccine hesitancy. Effective communication is the key to dispelling fears, addressing concerns, and promoting acceptance of vaccination, the WHO statement noted.
The issue of Vaccine can be read here.