Vaccine Hesitancy

Worries about vaccines are nothing new. Anti_vaccination groups were formed in 1860s when small pox vaccination was made compulsory. Even when small pox was causing untold devastation, some people were opposed to it.

The Vaccine hesitancy of 19th century is somewhat excusable. Some of the worries were real, and not much was known about the safety of small pox vaccine at that time. Lot of people were ill-informed and did not have access to good sources of information. They didn’t know the immense potential of the vaccination to eliminate distressing diseases.

Vaccines have now successfully eradicated small pox. Many other devastating infectious diseases such as polio have been controlled in many countries across the globe due to the vaccines.

Some of the vaccine hesitancy in west is because western people are not fully aware of the devastating power of infectious diseases (at least until COVID-19 came to the world in 2020).

Vaccine hesitancy is also sustained by “confirmation bias” . Confirmation bias is the tendency of human beings to seek information that confirms what they believe in. If you distrust vaccines, you go looking for information that confirms you beliefs and you disregard information that proves vaccines are hugely beneficial.

Some people wish for a 100% safe vaccine. But there is no such thing as completely risk free vaccine. It is true Vaccines can cause serious side effects. It is true that Vaccines can cause long term side effects. It is true that Vaccines can rarely cause life threatening side effects and even deaths.

It is normal to worry about side effects of vaccines. But the potential for side effects should not be the reason to decline vaccination.

One has to look at benefits as well as risks. Some people focus on everything bad that can happen as a result of vaccines.

COVID-19 vaccines had an unusually short development period. This is because of the pandemic. The available evidence indicate that the benefits of the vaccines are far greater than risks. It is true that there is no long term safety data. But in the middle of a pandemic, which has caused untold misery to millions, waiting for perfect long term data is not an option.

If you are sceptical about vaccines, please do focus on benefits as well as risks. Do not focus on risks only.


BMJ. Practice Pointer. Covid-19 vaccination hesitancy. BMJ 2021; 373 doi: (Published 20 May 2021)
Cite this as: BMJ 2021;373:n1138

BMJ. News. Covid-19: Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine is “likely” responsible for deaths of some elderly patients, Norwegian review finds.
BMJ 2021; 373 doi: (Published 27 May 2021)
Cite this as: BMJ 2021;373:n1372

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