Study Discovers Global Distrust for COVID-19 Vaccines

A research team made up of researchers from the City University of New York Graduate School of Public Health and Health Policy (CUNY SPH) and other distinguished institutions such as the Barcelona Institute for Global Health and the Vaccine Confidence Project at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine announced yesterday that their research, which focused on potential global hesitancy to accept a coronavirus vaccine, was published in the “Nature Medicine” journal.

The researchers carried out their research based on previously collected COVID-SCORE data of more than 13,400 people from 19 countries that had been the most affected by the coronavirus. The researchers discovered that 72% of the individuals who participated in the survey would likely take the vaccine. In the remaining 28%, 14% would hesitate while the other 14% would refuse. The latter 14% represents tens of millions of individuals.

Currently, there are more than 90 coronavirus vaccines in development, with half of them engaged in human trials. Apart from addressing the challenges that come with developing an effective and safe vaccine, manufacturing it on a large scale and dispensing it equitably, health authorities all around the world must also consider an additional obstacle: vaccine hesitancy.

Study coordinator and ISGlobal researcher Jeffrey V. Lazarus says that the research team discovered the problem of vaccine hesitancy to be strongly related to a lack of trust in the government. In countries where trust was higher, vaccine confidence was also higher.

Another co-coordinator of the study, CUNY SPH Dean Ayman El-Mohandes, highlighted the need to improve the public’s understanding of how they as a collective could help stop the spread of the coronavirus in their communities as well as their families while also increasing vaccine confidence.

The country that recorded the highest number of positive responses with regard to “taking a proven, effective and safe vaccine” was China at 87%. China also had the lowest score in negative responses at 0.7%.  In the United States, 13% of the respondents had no opinion, 11% gave negative responses, and the remaining 76% gave positive responses. Respondents from Russia provided the lowest percentage of positive responses, equated at 55%. The country with the highest score in negative responses was Poland, at 27%.

The researchers noted that vaccine acceptances also varied with education level, income and age, with those who were older and earning more than $32 per day recording higher acceptance as compared to those who were under 22 years and earning less than $2 per day. Strangely enough, people whose relatives had fallen sick with the coronavirus or who had themselves been infected were not more likely to give positive responses.

Other study co-authors, such as Heidi J. Larson, the director and professor of the Vaccine Confidence Project, and Scott C. Ratzan, a CUNY SPH distinguished lecturer, called for restoration of public trust in science and the benefits of immunization as well as building vaccine literacy. This, they argued, would prevent the refusal of people to get the vaccine.

Hesitancy to accept vaccines and other novel treatments is something biomedical companies have to think about. Speaking of novel treatments, one interesting company you need to watch is Processa Pharmaceuticals Inc. (NASDAQ: PCSA). The company focuses on identifying unmet medical need conditions for which proof of efficacy of remedies exists and then developing treatments to address those needs.

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