With COVID-19 vaccines poised to receive authorization in a growing number of countries, now is the time to dispel rumors and overcome misguided hesitancy about these vital public health tools.

COVID-19 has been the perfect storm for misunderstanding and misinformation. The disease is new, it's unpredictable, and its progression feels out of our control. Worse, in many countries the public health advice provided has been confusing and inconsistent—and sometimes just plain wrong. The reluctance around taking COVID-19 vaccine is an indicator that vaccine hesitancy — once limited to fringe anti-vaxxer groups — is now moving into the mainstream.

"A lot of people you never would have imagined are now saying that maybe the anti-vaccination lobby has a point," says Heidi Larson, Director of the Vaccine Confidence Project at London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine.

Globally, 70-75% of adults globally report that they are likely to take a vaccine – meaning that nearly one-third may not get vaccinated.

In Africa, vaccine acceptance ranges from 70% in Kenya down to 33% in Cameroon – far below the rate needed to achieve herd immunity that protects the population overall.

Here are three ways to speed the pandemic’s end:

  1. Focus on the positives: Find the people who say they’ll get vaccinated – and make sure they do. For this group of early adopters, healthcare workers and policy makers must do everything possible to move their intention to action.
  2. Make it easy: Studies of annual flu vaccination campaigns show that even people who intend to get the flu shot often don’t get around to it. Make vaccination as ubiquitous as possible: at local health centers, at pop-up clinics in workplaces, pharmacies, supermarkets, public areas – basically anywhere people are still going out to.
  3. Design for women: Around the world, a large majority of primary and community health workers are women, and they are the primary link to healthcare for many families. Women are key to motivating health-seeking behaviors and instilling confidence in COVID-19 vaccines. Services and messaging must be designed with women in mind.

The more people who have a good experience getting a COVID-19 vaccine, the better we can combat misguided anti-vaccination perspectives.

Adapted from a blog piece by Sherine Guirguis, Co-Director of Common Thread