Friday, June 18, 2021

Worldwide vaccine hesitancy dashing hopes of rapid global herd immunity

A new poll reveals that over one billion people worldwide are unwilling to accept a Covid-19 vaccine.

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More than five million Americans who have received their first dose of the Covid-19 vaccine are ducking out of appointments for their second shot.

Some mistakenly think they are sufficiently protected with a single shot, while others fear unknown side effects. Either way, it dashes any hope of the country quickly achieving herd immunity.

Such vaccine hesitation is common around the world, according to a new Gallup poll which surveyed 300,000 people across 117 countries, reports the Economist.

It found that only 68% of adults would agree to be vaccinated if a free jab were available to them. 29% said they would refuse outright.

People’s willingness to take a Covid-19 vaccine varied from country to country in 2020, with the percentages saying they would take a vaccine ranging from a high of 96% in Myanmar to a low of 25% in Kazakhstan.

Populations of countries which experienced particularly deadly waves seem more likely to accept vaccines.

In India, which is currently dealing with a second catastrophic wave and where less than 10% of the population has received one dose, the percentage willing to take a coronavirus vaccine was between 80% and 89%.

And in the UK, Germany and Brazil, all of which have experienced severe outbreaks, 70% to 79% were inclined to be vaccinated.

In Europe, 53% of respondents say they would take the shot, though west Europeans are generally keener than easterners.

Elsewhere, people are more eager. In Africa 64% and Latin America 68% said they would agree to be vaccinated.

Asia showed the most confidence in the jab with as many as 76% reckoning vaccines are safe.

Myanmar is the keenest country in the world, with around 96% ready to roll up their sleeves. The country has historically enjoyed high vaccination coverage. In 2017, for example, almost all parents in Yangon, Myanmar’s largest city, got their children vaccinated against Japanese encephalitis, a lethal mosquito-borne illness.

Some countries are particularly hostile to vaccines. In France 40% of respondents said they would not agree to a jab. Past public-health scares, such as a scandal involving HIV-infected blood and a troubled vaccine rollout during the swine-flu pandemic have soured French attitudes to inoculation.

Russia and Hungary are even less likely to trust a vaccine, with below 40% prepared to say yes to a jab.

Over all, the poll results do not bode well for herd immunity which most authorities say requires 70-90% of a population to be immune.

However, responding to a question about herd immunity last month, Dr Anthony Fauci, the chief medical adviser to President Joe Biden, urged people to stop focusing on an elusive, magic number.

Instead, he said, “Let’s get as many people vaccinated as quickly as we possibly can.”

For, even if the virus continues to circulate for years to come, vaccinations can turn it into a more manageable threat.

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