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10 Nov, 2020 11:03

British scientists warn vaccine hesitancy threatens to undermine Covid response

British scientists warn vaccine hesitancy threatens to undermine Covid response

With an 80 percent take-up of a vaccine needed to protect the community from Covid-19, British scientists have warned that hesitancy, and the spread of misinformation and mistrust, could undermine efforts to fight the virus.

A report published by the British Academy and the Royal Society found that, due to circulating misinformation and behavioral factors, around 36 percent of people in the UK are now uncertain about being vaccinated or are very unlikely to get vaccinated against coronavirus.

The research called on governments to create a “serious, well-funded, and community-based public-engagement strategy” to counter misinformation and hold media companies accountable for spreading harmful information, and to fill in “real knowledge voids” by educating the public on how to spot falsehoods.

For the success of any vaccination program, the study states it is “critical to build public support” and address fears about safety, while being unafraid to communicate complex information about the array of potential drug trials that are taking place.

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Professor Melinda Mills, the lead author of the report, called for a “frank conversation” with the UK public to ensure it is aware “that things will not immediately go back to normal when vaccines arrive.”

In order to have the most effect, the study urged authorities to prepare a plan for a “phased and ethical vaccine deployment”, with a decentralized local vaccination program, and systems that make it convenient to distribute the vaccine, such as weekend and evening sessions at GP surgeries. They suggest first providing the vaccine to priority groups, such as healthcare workers, teachers, and retail workers, and then vulnerable groups in crowded situations, including homeless people and individuals in prison.

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The news comes after Health Secretary Matt Hancock revealed that the NHS has been instructed to prepare for the possible deployment of a Covid-19 vaccine at the start of December, as hopes grow of the approval of a successful vaccination program before Christmas. 

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