Vaccine hesitancy

Urgent need to remove myths and misconceptions about vaccination

This method is one of the most pertinent harm reduction strategies and can help prevent several diseases

New Delhi, 10th February 2019: About 2 to 3 million deaths from diseases such as pneumonia, diarrhea, measles, and diphtheria are averted annually due to vaccinations. They are universally recognized as among the most cost-effective public health interventions. They are an established harm reduction strategy. Although the overall prevalence of complete vaccine refusal is <2%, the same may lead to preventable diseases in an individual. There is thus a need to create awareness about the importance of this method in the country.

The first-ever conference on harm reduction organized on 30th January 2019 by the Heart Care Foundation of India (HCFI) and IJCP focused on vaccination. It discussed how the aim should be to eradicate a disease and if not, then reduce the burden in the society. Withholding vaccines from a child or an adult because of a hypothetical risk places them at risk for real infection that may have real sequelae.

Speaking about this, Padma Shri Awardee, Dr KK Aggarwal, President, HCFI, said, “Immunization is necessary for one and all. Often, people assume that it is not necessary because their children appear healthy or do not fall sick often. In other cases, health workers may not be able to reach out to some families due to non-availability of members at a certain point. There is a need to create awareness on the importance of immunization particularly for children and expectant mothers. Doing so will help us play a role in the larger good of the nation and achieve the government’s target also in a timely manner. Apart from this, there is also a need to scale up manpower, supplies, budget, and other resources to speed up the process.”

Mission Indradhanush, depicting seven colors of the rainbow, targets to immunize all children against seven vaccine preventable diseases namely Diphtheria, Pertussis, Tetanus, Childhood Tuberculosis, Polio, Hepatitis B and Measles. In addition to this, vaccines for JE (Japanese Encephalitis) and Hib (Hemophilus influenzae type B) are also being provided in selected states. Apart from this, there are also vaccinations for adults.

Adding further, Dr Arun Gupta Sr Paediatrician and President DMC said, “Apart from operational challenges, there is reluctance, opposition, and slow acceptance by some in the society. Vaccine hesitancy must be addressed on priority. Vaccinations are definitely one of the most imminent harm reduction strategies.”

Some recommendations from the conference

  • WHO has listed vaccine hesitancy as one of the 10 threats to global health in 2019. Vaccine hesitancy should be addressed on priority at every level.
  • Hepatitis B vaccine protects from hepatocellular carcinoma.
  • Human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine protects from HPV infection, a major cause of cervical cancer.
  • Adult vaccination should also be addressed.