People who delay or refuse vaccines for themselves or their children are presenting a growing challenge for countries seeking to close the immunization gap. Globally, one in five children still do not receive routine life-saving immunizations, and an estimated 1.5 million children still die each year of diseases that could be prevented by vaccines that already exist, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).
“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,” said Dr. Philippe Duclos, senior health adviser for WHO’s Immunization, Vaccines and Biological Department.
Concerns about vaccine safety can be linked to vaccine hesitancy, but safety concerns are only one of many factors that may drive hesitancy. Vaccine hesitancy can be caused by other factors such as negative beliefs based on myths (e.g., the idea that vaccination of women leads to infertility), misinformation, mistrust in the healthcare professional or healthcare system, the role of influential leaders, costs, geographic barriers, and concerns about vaccine safety.
Effective communication is crucial to dispelling fears, addressing concerns and promoting acceptance of vaccination.