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on COVID-19 Immunization and Mitigating Vaccine Hesitancy

Preventing millions of deaths annually has been attributed to immunization, and its development is regarded as a significant global health achievement (WHO 2020). Immunization is a critical aspect of primary health care as a fundamental human right to life and health. In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, clinicians and scientists have mobilized efforts to accelerate research and vaccine development, a process which typically spans over years (WHO 2020). In only months, more than 100 vaccine candidates have undergone development (WHO 2020). Early phase III clinical trial data of a number of vaccines are promising, and several pharmaceutical companies have reported that their vaccine candidates are both safe and more than 90% efficacious (Nature 2020). At least one vaccine is already being distributed. World Health Organization (WHO) Chief Scientist, Doctor Soumya Swaminathan, has even suggested that further coronavirus vaccine campaigns could begin as early as January 2021 (WHO 2020).

Despite the proven safety and cost-effectiveness of immunization, low vaccination coverage across different socioeconomic settings has remained an ongoing public health challenge (WHO 2008). In 2019, the WHO cited vaccine hesitancy, or the reluctance and refusal to vaccinate despite availability, as one of the top ten global health threats (WHO 2019). The factors contributing to vaccine hesitancy, while complex and context-specific, are often related to the spread of misinformation. During the pandemic, prominent anti-vaccination groups have been lobbying against the use of vaccines to manage COVID-19, with some denying the existence of the virus altogether (Nature Medicine 2020). Moreover, the vaccine development process, which is largely funded through public investment, is poorly understood within the population. Mixed messages from the government and a lack of transparency about the rapid development and deployment of a COVID-19 vaccine has contributed to growing public anxiety, compromising its acceptance (International Journal of Public Health 2020).