Science Must Prevail
Reader's Digest India|July 2021
Overcoming the problem of COVID-19 vaccine hesitancy in India
Dr Abhay Shukla

Today, hesitation regarding COVID-19 vaccination is a significant barrier to achieving rapid vaccine coverage in many parts of India. Massive shortage in availability of vaccines and issues regarding its distribution are, of course, major factors holding us back in many states, but reluctance towards the vaccine also makes the task of ensuring immunity among the majority of our population difficult. But moving beyond ‘victim-blaming’, we need to dig deeper and understand the underlying reasons for vaccine hesitancy so that it can be minimized. Addressing this issue is as much an essential step as is stepping up steady vaccine supply and delivery.

We regularly read stories about people, particularly in rural areas, who are reluctant to approach vaccination centres, even actively avoiding vaccination staff visiting their homes. Before rushing to dismiss them as being ‘unscientific’, we need to understand that scientific attitudes among the public are shaped in a social context. We need to reflect on how rational thinking in India has been undermined in various forms, especially in recent years.

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