Authors: Heidi Larson, Pauline Paterson, Leah Ewald, and Kristen de Graaf
On November 18-19, six LNCT countries are gathering with experts from Gavi, WHO, UNICEF, Common Thread, the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, and Results for Development in Geneva, Switzerland to put their heads together on developing local solutions to the global challenge of vaccine hesitancy.
Recognizing that addressing vaccine hesitancy is a priority in many LNCT countries, the Vaccine Confidence ProjectTM at the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine (LSHTM) conducted a landscape to identify the key hesitancy challenges faced by LNCT countries and the strategies they use to address them. To capture and frame country experiences of vaccine hesitancy, LSHTM and Curatio International Foundation conducted in-depth interviews and focus group discussions with immunization experts (e.g. EPI program, Ministry of Health, and National Immunization Technical Advisory Groups (NITAGs)) from LNCT countries. In total, 41 immunization experts from 12 countries (Armenia, Georgia, Ghana, Indonesia, Lao PDR, Moldova, Nigeria, São Tomé e Príncipe, Sudan, Timor-Leste, Uzbekistan, and Vietnam) participated.
Their key findings were that:
- The most prevalent concerns among parents regarded potential side effects of vaccines reported in the media, by GPs, or by people they knew; trust issues around new vaccines; the halal status of vaccines; and distrust in the government.
- Multiple participants reported mistrust of new vaccines and concerns about new products and manufacturers and the impact of rumors and misconceptions.
- Participants referred to healthcare professionals, such as doctors and nurses, as having influence on vaccination decisions. Particularly highlighted were issues with healthcare staff, including healthcare provider attitudes to vaccination and a lack of education on vaccines.
- Many participants stressed the issue of anti-vaccination and misinformation spreading on social media.
LNCT countries are implementing various interventions to address vaccine hesitancy. However, in most countries rigorous evaluation of these interventions has not been done yet – some are planning on it, and others are interested in learning more about how to evaluate strategies to address vaccine hesitancy. Determinants of vaccine hesitancy were shown to be context and country specific.
Our upcoming meeting will bring together government delegates engaged in hesitancy from Armenia, Georgia, Ghana, Lao PDR, Uzbekistan and Vietnam (six LNCT countries who identified hesitancy as a top priority at LNCT’s Network-wide Meeting in July). With a focus on building trust, social media monitoring, managing safety perceptions, health worker hesitancy, and engaging minority and vulnerable populations, participants will share experiences, identify global and regional tools that may be adapted to address challenges, and develop action plans for their implementation.
As the LSHTM’s findings show, the manifestations of vaccine hesitancy at the local level are diverse and complex. We look forward to working with participants to navigate the global resources available to identify and adapt the tools that will work best for them.
If you are attending the meeting, please share what you are looking forward to, countries you want to learn from, and challenges you’d like to discuss by leaving a comment below.
If you are not attending, not to worry – we will be reporting out on the outcomes of the workshop and there will be additional opportunities to engage on this topic in 2020. If you cannot make it to the meeting this year, please follow along on Twitter and Facebook. Thank you to everyone who has contributed to this work so far, and we look forward to seeing everyone soon!