As multiple effective vaccines are developed, their distribution and overall acceptance by the public is crucial to stop the spread of COVID-19. Research conducted by Principal Investigator of the Human Immunomics Initiative, Dr. Julia Wu, in collaboration with Pregistry focused on a crucial population- mothers and their children. Estimates of global vaccine acceptance among pregnant women and mothers of young children are yet unknown. Acceptance of COVID-19 vaccination among pregnant women and mothers of children younger than 18-years-old, as well as potential predictors, were assessed through an online survey, administered by Pregistry between October 28 and November 18, 2020.
Findings showed that a high burden of disease alone may not provide sufficient motivation for pregnant women and mothers of young children to seek vaccination for themselves or their children.
Women’s risk perception of COVID-19 in the US and Russia, was comparable to that in low incidence countries (ie. Australia and New Zealand), potentially suggesting a phenomenon of COVID-19 denial. These findings suggest that there is room for governments, especially those of countries currently experiencing COVID-19 denial and public distrust, to rebuild confidence in the coming months as vaccine roll-out continues. It is essential to rebuild vaccine confidence through transparent communication and effective community engagement, especially in countries experiencing widespread distrust exacerbated by the pandemic. Policymakers must address this public denial, doubt, fears and misconceptions of the disease, using clear and unified communication. As shown in previous roll-outs of new vaccines, such as HPV and Ebola, community work with sensitivity toward country-, local- and subgroup- specific culture contexts is crucial.
Due to geographic variation in vaccine acceptance, locally-specific vaccine programs are needed across population groups. Vaccine education campaigns should emphasize the pandemic as a whole and its impact on communities, rather than limiting to vaccine safety and effectiveness.
The key message is clear: denial of the disease, skepticism of the vaccine, distrust of the system, along with pre-existing vaccine attitudes, all shaped the COVID-19 vaccine hesitancy observed. This is consistent across all countries, for acceptance of both self-vaccination among pregnant and non-pregnant women, and for acceptance of child-vaccination among mothers.
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