Barts-MS rose-tinted-odometer: ★★★
She is in her early thirties and is a first-generation ethnic minority immigrant to the UK. She was diagnosed as having MS 6 months ago after presenting with optic neuritis and a subsequent spinal cord syndrome. She is due to start on ocrelizumab in the next few weeks, but we want to delay her start until she has her first dose of one of the COVID-19 vaccines. However, she doesn’t want the COVID-19 vaccine. She is worried that it will ‘affect her DNA and any children she may have in the future’. I spent a lot of time explaining to her that what she has been told about the vaccine affecting her DNA is incorrect and simply not possible biologically and therefore the vaccine will not affect any children she has in the future. Fortunately, a 30-minute phone call to this particular patient seems to have worked. She has now agreed to take-up one of our early Barts-MS vaccination slots next week.
The above scenario represents just one of the conspiracy theories doing the rounds on social media concerning different COVID-19 vaccines. It is clearly incorrect. Similarly, there are many other conspiracy theories about the vaccines that also need to be dispelled.
The survey below done quite early in the pandemic shows that in the USA only two-thirds of pwMS were willing to have a COVID-19 vaccine. This figure is over 90% in the UK but is highly variable globally. Just across the channel in France, a recent Ipsos survey showed that just over 40% of people said they would have a COVID-19 vaccine. A recent Lancet study (see below) highlights the variation in attitudes to vaccinations across the world.
In the US survey below vaccine willingness, is associated with education level, perceived risk for COVID-19 infection, and trust in COVID-19 information sources.
Among less-educated communities trust, like knowledge, is built socially. People are more inclined to believe what their friends tell them, either in person or on social media. Clearly, the downside of this is that conspiracy and anti-science theories spread. However, this also provides us with an opportunity to build trust where it is lacking. What we need are local vaccine influencers from ethnic minorities and other communities to come forward to have the vaccine and spread the word that they are safe and that by having them you are not only protecting yourself but the wider community from getting severe COVID-19 and potentially dying from it.
COVID-19 vaccination is about public health, saving lives, protecting the NHS and getting society and the economy back to normal or let’s hope a more compassionate new normal.
Scientists, pharma companies, regulators, governments and the NHS have delivered us effective, safe and accessible vaccines, which is the only realistic way out of this pandemic. It is now up to the population to take up the offer of having the vaccine. We in the UK are in a very privileged position when it comes to COVID-19 vaccinations; you only have to watch the shenanigans going on politically in terms of ‘vaccine nationalism’ to appreciate the significance of this.
So if you want to become a local COVID-19 vaccination champion please contact us (firstname.lastname@example.org) we can provide you with the necessary information to educate your friends and family. I and my colleagues are also prepared to set-up and run online meetings to answer any questions you may have about COVID-19 and the available vaccines.
Please feel free to share any conspiracy theories about COVID-19 vaccines that you have heard about. The point is not to just dismiss them but to discuss them and hopefully convince people that they are not a good reason not to have the vaccine.
We are in this mess together and we need to get of this mess together and that means not leaving people behind and vulnerable to COVID-19.
Ehde et al. Willingness to obtain COVID-19 vaccination in adults with multiple sclerosis in the United States. Mult Scler Relat Disord. 2021 Jan 22;49:102788.
Background: As vaccines for the coronavirus become available, it will be important to know the rate of COVID-19 vaccine acceptability in adults with multiple sclerosis (MS), given that vaccination will be a key strategy for preventing SARS-CoV-2 infections. Using a national sample of adults with MS in the United States obtained early in the COVID-19 pandemic, the current study aimed to: (1) assess willingness to get a COVID-19 vaccine when available; (2) determine demographic, MS, and psychosocial correlates of vaccine willingness; and (3) measure where people with MS get their COVID-19 information and their perceived trustworthiness of such sources, which may influence COVID-19 vaccine willingness.
Methods: Adults with MS (N = 486) living in the United States completed a cross-sectional online survey (between 10 April 2020 and 06 May 2020) about their willingness to receive a COVID-19 vaccination once available. Participants also completed measures to describe the sample and to assess factors potentially related to vaccine willingness, including demographics, MS-specific variables, psychological measures, COVID-19 information sources, and perceived trustworthiness of their information sources.
Results: Approximately two-thirds of the participants (66.0%) reported a willingness to obtain a future COVID-19 vaccine, whereas 15.4%of the sample was unwilling. Greater willingness to receive the vaccine was associated with having a higher level of education and holding a higher perception of one’s risk of catching COVID-19. Participants reported accessing COVID-19 information from many different sources. Approximately a third (31.6%) of the sample reported getting their information from healthcare providers. Healthcare providers and the National MS Society had the highest perceived trustworthiness for COVID-19 information. The perceived trustworthiness of information sources was highly associated with vaccine willingness.
Conclusion: Early in the pandemic, willingness to get a COVID-19 vaccine was not universal in this large sample or people living with MS. Vaccine willingness was associated with a few variables including education level, perceived risk for COVID-19 infection, and trust in COVID-19 information sources. These results have important implications for guiding healthcare providers and the MS community as COVID-19 vaccines become widely available.
Figueiredo et al. Mapping global trends in vaccine confidence and investigating barriers to vaccine uptake: a large-scale retrospective temporal modelling study. Lancet. 2020 Sep 26;396(10255):898-908.
Background: There is growing evidence of vaccine delays or refusals due to a lack of trust in the importance, safety, or effectiveness of vaccines, alongside persisting access issues. Although immunisation coverage is reported administratively across the world, no similarly robust monitoring system exists for vaccine confidence. In this study, vaccine confidence was mapped across 149 countries between 2015 and 2019.
Methods: In this large-scale retrospective data-driven analysis, we examined global trends in vaccine confidence using data from 290 surveys done between September, 2015, and December, 2019, across 149 countries, and including 284 381 individuals. We used a Bayesian multinomial logit Gaussian process model to produce estimates of public perceptions towards the safety, importance, and effectiveness of vaccines. Associations between vaccine uptake and a large range of putative drivers of uptake, including vaccine confidence, socioeconomic status, and sources of trust, were determined using univariate Bayesian logistic regressions. Gibbs sampling was used for Bayesian model inference, with 95% Bayesian highest posterior density intervals used to capture uncertainty.
Findings: Between November, 2015, and December, 2019, we estimate that confidence in the importance, safety, and effectiveness of vaccines fell in Afghanistan, Indonesia, Pakistan, the Philippines, and South Korea. We found significant increases in respondents strongly disagreeing that vaccines are safe between 2015 and 2019 in six countries: Afghanistan, Azerbaijan, Indonesia, Nigeria, Pakistan, and Serbia. We find signs that confidence has improved between 2018 and 2019 in some EU member states, including Finland, France, Ireland, and Italy, with recent losses detected in Poland. Confidence in the importance of vaccines (rather than in their safety or effectiveness) had the strongest univariate association with vaccine uptake compared with other determinants considered. When a link was found between individuals’ religious beliefs and uptake, findings indicated that minority religious groups tended to have lower probabilities of uptake.
Interpretation: To our knowledge, this is the largest study of global vaccine confidence to date, allowing for cross-country comparisons and changes over time. Our findings highlight the importance of regular monitoring to detect emerging trends to prompt interventions to build and sustain vaccine confidence.