During R4P, we had a great conversation about vaccine hesitancy in Africa with Wits RHI. The conversation was really helpful for me as I consider how we might address this issue together moving forward. There is a lot to do, and I would love to hear any strategies people are already using to address hesitancy.
One reason for hesitancy is because people dont know how vaccines work/ developed. The science behind it is hard for the general population to understand. A key strategy is simplifying the science for easier understanding
Here are some common concerns from the general population and some simple answers:
1. Why do we have to get so many vaccines in a lifetime- this is because each virus/bacteria has its own antibodies, its just like a key for every lock
2. Why do viruses mutate- think about having a cake recipe and either missing an ingredient or skipping a step, the result will be different than intended
3. Why do vaccines use the virus causing the infection ( this is a common question for Covid19 vaccines)- give a brief history of vaccine development, how smallpox was eradicated, the childhood vaccines, then discuss that the component in the vaccines cannot cause infection its purpose is to awaken the army
4. Why the side effects- the body recognizes the enemy and summons the army, it is during this fight that we experience side effects that are short-lived
5. How to explain antibodies and how vaccines work-when talking about antibodies say the army that fights the bodies enemies, the B and T cell are the special forces that are trigerred by specific enemies. The special forces protect us from future attacks, they chill in the barracks and are trigerred immediately the enemy is recognized
I loved your answers to the common questions. They were simple and easy to follow. I really LOVED the cake recipe analogy! I’ll definitely be using that to explain HIV diversity.
In my experience, vaccine hesitancy is often deeper than just a lack of information. People grapple with hesitancy because of historical oppression or the current inequities in access. I wonder how you would engage on these deeper issues?