16 September 2021, by Noel Davy
COVID vaccines, although beneficial and considered “life-saving”, are still the object of boycott of many populations, especially in Africa. This widespread skepticism is the reason that some countries are forced to throw millions of doses of vaccines in the trash, due to not having sufficient people willing to be vaccinated. This is particularly the case in Malawiwhere the authorities had to “incinerate more than 16,910 doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine”, because some Malawians refused the vaccines. South Sudan was forced to return 72,000 doses of vaccines, for lack of “arm to prick”.
The fight against coronavirus disease has led to the development of vaccines that provide both immunity and hope for a return to normal social life. However, there has been protests from individuals who are reluctant to vaccine calling for respect for individual rights and freedoms. There is an urgent need to understand the root causes of such behavior, as vaccination campaigns, even the most persuasive, struggle to change opinions, while the delta variant itself, always adds more victims. This blog aims to address the question of why such mistrust of COVID-19 vaccines still persist.
Reasons for mistrust of COVID-19 vaccines
The pandemic is an uncertain time, where disinformation can lead to some populations being indifferent to vaccination. Rumors about COVID-19 have given rise to the phenomenon of infodemia. An infodemic is, as the World Health Organization defines it, a “deliberate dissemination of misleading information, both online and offline”. It promotes the adoption of deviant and unnecessarily dangerous behavior that can undermine pandemic response.Moreover, while it is true that the anti-vax movement constitutes a major obstacle in the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic, its roots rarely make the headlines. The most common reasons fueling vaccine refusal are:
- Rumors about side effects of vaccines.
- Anti-vaccine propaganda on digital social networks.
- Doubts about the effectiveness of COVID vaccines.
- More specific to Africa, religion, and mistrust of pharmaceutical factories.
The obsessive fear of side effects
Many fail to understand why it is urgent to be vaccinated, because they are afraid of the supposed side effects of such vaccines. Yet, as the World Health Organization claims, the side effects of COVID vaccines are mild and “the risk of a serious adverse reaction to an approved COVID vaccine is 1 in a million”.
Anti-vax propaganda on digital platforms
| We have seen social networks become ideal platforms for disseminating anti-vaccination opinions|
Social networks have been a means of spreading another kind of virus: disinformation. Numerous myths and false testimonies have confused public opinion and forced populations into oblivion and contempt for the recommendations of the WHO and the science community. The sharing of information might disguise as a way to encourage the general public to be more vigilant. However, it has certainly shocked a large number of people and contributed to trends in anti-vaccine ideology.
Doubts about the effectiveness of COVID vaccines
For many vaccine-skeptics, uncertainties remain about the effectiveness of COVID vaccines. They say there is no certainty that vaccinated people have “stronger” immune system to fight the virus, leading them to refuse the injection. Yet the safety and efficacy of authorized coronavirus vaccines have been proven.
Religion and mistrust of pharmaceutical companies
Many believers have developed attitudes against COVID-19 vaccines due to doubts and concerns about the supposed intentions of pharmaceutical companies. As one article puts it so well, “There is the idea of something devilish in science in general and in vaccines in particular, these being perceived as an unhealthy intrusion into the human organism of some kind, thing that was not wanted by God”.
There is no risk in getting vaccinated
There is no risk in getting the COVID-19 vaccines. On the other hand, refusing to be vaccinated can have serious consequences; because it is not only a question of individual freedoms, but of survival as well. Indeed, the absence of immunity not only leads to large-scale contagion, but also promotes the mutation of the virus. New variants can emerge and severely hamper the collective efforts of many to combat the disease. The delta variant is a living illustration of this.
COVID vaccines, contrary to what the rumors are trying to tell us, are not poisons meant to shorten people’s lives. Nor are they the work of an occult organization in search of souls or desirous of establishing a new world order. COVID vaccines are ordinary vaccines, providing effective immunity against a deadly virus.
| The benefits of vaccination far outweigh the dreaded risks and there would be many more cases of illness and death without vaccines |.
The truth is that millions of people get vaccinated every day and the numbers keep rising. It is estimated to date that more than 3.9 million people got vaccinated in Nigeria, 30 million in France, 2.18 million in Ethiopia, 4.76 million in Vietnam, 6.87 million in South Africa, etc. The risks of not getting vaccinated, on the other hand, is dreadful. When Nigerian communities boycotted vaccination campaigns against polio, a disease that was being eradicated, an outbreak occurred in the early 2000s. The population has then faced multiple consequences for it.
The COVID-19 pandemic has been a dreadful experience for all. For a long time, the virus has been thought of as “invincible” with no treatments and vaccines. Now vaccination offers hope for a world free from all infection and a potential return to normal social life. It’s up to us to do our part and listen to our survival instincts, because the coronavirus no matter what, is, above all, a matter of life and death.
What do you think about the root causes of anti-vaccination campaigns? Have you encountered such campaigns, and were there any strategies to fight back such misinformation? Please share with us your thoughts below!