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Despite affordable Covid-19 vaccine likely by Feb 2021, 59% say they won’t rush to take it

The online survey was conducted between November 23 and 30 by LocalCircles, a social media platform that has been gathering citizens’ inputs on various issues pertaining to the Covid-19 pandemic.

Written by Anuradha Mascarenhas | Pune | December 2, 2020 4:16:09 am
Pune DRM felicitates doctors at Railway HospitalPicture used for representational purpose

While chances of an affordable Covid-19 vaccine being available by February next year may seem high, 59 per cent of over 8,900 respondents to a survey question said they won’t rush to take it, according to the survey findings released on Tuesday.

The online survey was conducted between November 23 and 30 by LocalCircles, a social media platform that has been gathering citizens’ inputs on various issues pertaining to the Covid-19 pandemic.

The online survey received more than 25,000 responses from across 262 districts of India, of which 69 per cent respondents were men and 31 per cent were women. The survey responses were also compared to responses to a similar survey conducted in October.

The first question in the survey was, “The Covid-19 vaccine is likely to be available from February 2021 via private and government channels. If that happens, what will be your approach towards taking this vaccine?”.

Sachin Taparia, founder of LocalCircles, said the platform received responses from 8,936 people, of which 8 per cent said “I am a health or frontline worker and will get it on priority through the government”, 13 per cent said, “I will get it as soon as it becomes available via any healthcare channel”, and 11 per cent said “I will get it as soon as it becomes available via a private healthcare channel”.

But as many as 59 per cent of respondents said that they won’t rush to take the Covid-19 vaccine even if it is available in the near future, said Taparia. “The perception of a majority of citizens being sceptical on taking Covid-19 vaccine hasn’t changed much as compared to the result of the survey conducted in mid-October by LocalCircles. At that time, 61 per cent of 8,312 voters had said they are sceptical about the Covid-19 vaccine and won’t rush to take it in 2021 even if it is available,” said Taparia.

“We will share the findings of this report with relevant government stakeholders so the public concerns and feedback finds place in the strategy and implementation of Covid-19 vaccine roll-out,” said Taparia.

‘Need for peer review by scientists, experts’

A peer review by scientists and experts is a must before we categorically accept any claim from any manufacturer about vaccine efficacy results, said Dr Subhash Salunkhe, technical advisor on Covid-19 to the Maharashtra government. “The acceptance of the vaccine by doctors and healthcare workers also needs to be evidence-based and information needs to be provided to this key high-risk group… there are a large number of issues that remain unanswered,” said Dr Salunkhe. He also said the hype being created, that the pandemic will be over once the vaccine is available, is not based on facts.

“Data should look at the duration of the viral shedding and the amount of virus in nasopharyngeal swabs or nasal swabs over time . Questions like will it work on younger people, on those who are immunocompromised, and how long the protection lasts, need to be answered,” said Dr Salunkhe.

“To carry out this entire programme is very challenging,. The health system is inadequate and while we are addressing firefighting issues while dealing with the pandemic, we need to develop long-term capacity in the public health sector,” he said.

Dr Shashank Joshi, dean of the Indian College of Physicians, said there was need for better safety data. Recent sero-surveys in Pune and Mumbai have shown that high exposure and high sero antibody prevalence may have led to some sort of immunity in some pockets. “The unanswered questions are do the antibodies last and for how long? Also, do positive antibodies translate into protection… for all this, we need long-term data,” said Dr Joshi.

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