Dealing with global vaccine hesitancy – the case of Ukraine

The authors discuss COVID-19 vaccine hesitancy in Ukraine.

Vaccine hesitancy around the world has contrarily affected the battle against the overwhelming impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. This issue isn’t restricted to explicit geographic districts or social orders on the planet; different people and societies have various reasons for vaccine hesitancy. Some of the reasons are socio-cultural, traditional and religious beliefs, amongst many others.

“Vaccine Diplomacy” has also contributed to vaccine hesitancy. Vaccine diplomacy is where some powerful nations on the planet, who have command over the creation and supply of the COVID-19 vaccine, gain from the insufficient vaccine supplies to accomplish their geopolitical objectives. Genuine questions and concerns have been raised with regards to the efficacy and adverse impacts of vaccines from specific nations and areas of the world.

Ukraine finally chose to begin its COVID-19 vaccinations months after the other EU nations, amidst all the delays due to political instability and suspected corruption. These delays undoubtedly contributed to widespread vaccine apprehension among both the general public and medical professionals. In early February 2021, the President of Ukraine, Volodymyr Zelensky, spoke at a public occasion in Kiev, saying, “Having solved the issue of vaccine supplies, we face a new problem-mistrust of vaccinations and the refusal of a significant part of the population to the COVID-19 vaccine”.1 Ukraine, indeed, represents an interesting case in vaccine hesitancy. It is particularly high, higher than both its European peers and the United States. More than 50% of “PREMISE SURVEY” respondents indicate they feel vaccines are unsafe or are unsure if they are safe. Reasons for vaccine hesitancy among people in Ukraine vary depending on which part of the country they are located in. 2

As of October 20, 2021, Ukrainian authorities detailed 22,415 new confirmed COVID-19 cases with 546 deaths beyond 24 hours, the largest number since the beginning of the pandemic. The Ukrainian authorities have subjected the surprising spike in COVID-19 spread to the incredibly slow pace of vaccinations in the country of around 41 million people. Truth be told, the Ukrainian locals had the chance to pick between various types of vaccines; Pfizer, Moderna, AstraZeneca, and Sinovoc, yet at the same time, just around 15% of the populace is completely vaccinated. This makes Ukraine the least vaccinated country in Europe after Armenia. 3

If the fight on the COVID-19 pandemic is to be fought, the world’s vaccination reluctance problem must be urgently addressed. Ukraine and the rest of the world should begin and continue to engage in effective sensitization and public health education. Traditional and social media, civil society organizations, and other stakeholders should be well-informed in order to assist in the dissemination of effective and well-targeted information to diverse segments of society in Ukraine, and around the world. This would aid in the fight against vaccine misinformation. It would also assist people in Ukraine and other nations across the world to have faith in all internationally authorized COVID-19 vaccines, rather than believing conspiracy theories surrounding vaccine side-effects.

Sensitization and public education should raise understanding of how various vaccines have helped save lives in the past, even before the COVID-19 pandemic. Vaccines have saved the lives of millions of children in various parts of the world, particularly in developing countries, from childhood killer diseases such as poliomyelitis, measles, and whooping cough. Those who have misconceptions about vaccines, particularly the COVID-19 vaccines, should be made aware that vaccines are not harmful and are generally safe for use. They have to be internationally approved before global distribution. Any adverse effects following immunization should be reported to the appropriate health facilities, agencies, and other reporting platforms for prompt investigation and action.

The benefits of the COVID-19 vaccinations significantly outweigh any potential concerns. Ukrainian journalists and other communicators should do more to combat rumors and misconceptions about COVID-19 vaccines and provide adequate education to the public. This would go a long way toward combating the disease and instilling trust in vaccination programs. Vaccination has proven to be the most effective and cost-efficient public health tool in preventing and controlling the disastrous COVID-19 epidemic thus far. In Ukraine and elsewhere, vigorous lobbying is required by legislators, public health professionals, communication and education experts, as well as other stakeholders.

AUTHORS

1. Wireko Andrew Awuah, 5th year medical student

Sumy State University, Ukraine

Andrew is an award winning medical student at Sumy State University and also an International ambassador for the Canadian Medical Association.

2. Shekinah Obinna Amaka, 6th year medical student

Sumy State University, Ukraine

3. Paciencia Machai, 4th year medical student

Sumy State University

REFERENCES

  1. Edward Holt. (n.d.). Covid-19 vaccination in Ukraine – thelancet.com. Retrieved November 6, 2021, from https://www.thelancet.com/pdfs/journals/laninf/PIIS1473-3099(21)00156-0.pdf.
  2. Alexandra et al… (2021, July 30). Vaccine hesitancy around the world: Spotlight on Ukraine. Premise. Retrieved November 6, 2021, from https://www.premise.com/vaccine-hesitancy-around-the-world-spotlight-on-ukraine/.
  3. Karmanau, Y. (2021, October 21). Ukraine hits all-time death record amid vaccine hesitancy. AP NEWS. Retrieved November 6, 2021, from https://apnews.com/article/coronavirus-pandemic-health-ukraine-europe-coronavirus-vaccine-5ad7fb543096e0c2278976007ce12860.

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