Vaccine against COVID-19: Are Uzbeks ready for vaccination?
Mass vaccination against coronavirus infection in Uzbekistan will begin from April. There are various public perceptions on which vaccines should be taken, whether they are worth vaccinating or not…
To be vaccinated against COVID-19 and attracting the population to be vaccinated is a relevant matter for many countries. For example, in a number of European countries, people, including health workers, are sceptical about vaccines. In November 2020, according to a survey conducted by the University of Erfurt in Germany, the Robert Cox Institute and the Federal Health Information Centre within the framework of the COSMO project, the preparedness of health workers for coronavirus vaccination was 3,98 on a scale of 7. Among the population, the rate was higher, at 4.45.
This trend was also confirmed in the beginning of last December by a survey of more than 2,300 medical personnel conducted by 2 professional associations of intensive and urgent medicine - DGIIN and DIVI. According to the survey, 73% of German doctors and only 50% of nurses and paramedics expressed that they were ready for coronavirus vaccination. Experts stated that many nurses and paramedics are doubtful on whether the new vaccines have been adequately tested, and it is still unknown what side effects new technologies will cause.
Similar perceptions can also be observed in Russia. For example, on August 12-13, 2020, 52% of the 3040 doctors interviewed through the specialized platform “Справочник врача” (Doctors’ handbook) stated that they are not ready to be vaccinated with Sputnik V, created at the center of Gamalea, against the coronavirus, and 24.5% of respondents agreed to be vaccinated.
What are the reasons for the lack of confidence on the vaccine listed in August of last year? While 66 per cent of respondents answering the question, they stated that they did not have sufficient information on its effectiveness. The fact that the vaccine was developed in such a short period of time raised doubts in 48 % of the respondents. 20% of respondents stated that they would recommend the vaccine to patients, colleagues or acquaintances.
Currently, the third clinical trial of a new vaccine against COVID-19-ZF-UZ-VAC2001 is being conducted in corporation with the center of Advanced technologies under the Ministry of Innovative Development, Scientific Research of Virology under the Ministry of Health and the Anhui Zhifei Loncom Biofharmaceutical Research Center of the People’s Republic of China.
Clinical trials of the recombinant vaccine ZF-UZ-VAC 2001 began in Uzbekistan on 12th of December of 2020, the first volunteer was vaccinated on 16th of December of 2020. Since then, a total of 14,405 volunteers have been screened. Of these, 13,100 were tested with express test for COVID-19 and 9,970 with PCR analysis. Volunteers who were not diagnosed with COVID-19 infection underwent a medical examination.
As of March 24, 6,860 volunteers had been vaccinated with the first dose of Uzbekistan-China ZF-UZ-VAC2001 vaccine, 6,630 with the second dose and 2,964 with the third dose. However, apart from statistics, official information was not publicized on the status of vaccinated individuals and the results of the research (at least intermediate results). This, in turn, consequences in various rumours and speculations, decreasing public confidence in the vaccine.
It is planned to import vaccines not only from China but also from other countries. To find out the opinions of Internet users about the upcoming vaccination campaign, the Nationwide movement “Yuksalish” conducted an online survey on March 29-31 on the Telegram messenger. More than 19,000 participants, from almost all regions, were covered in three days (in particular, the online survey was published on more than 30 channels and messenger groups).
The outcome of the survey is as follows:
44% respondents (8 599) – “No-vaccination”;
34% respondents (6 641) – “Sputnik V” (Russia);
8% respondents (1 516) – “ZF-UZ-VAC2001” (China - Uzbekistan);
7% respondents (1 351) – “Pfizer/BioNTech” (American - German);
5% respondents (959) – "AsrtaZeneca" (United Kingdom);
2% respondents (327) – “Moderna” (USA);
Surely, the available information is not adequate to consider as a sociological section, nevertheless, it can be said that a particular portion of the population of Uzbekistan refuses to be vaccinated.
During the survey, some users left comments and a series of relevant questions via the Telegram bot. Including:
- Why there is no information on health of vaccinated people?
- What are the side effects of different vaccines on people?
- How to prepare for vaccination?
- Should a person be vaccinated, even if he is infected with coronavirus and has antibodies?
- Where can I get more information about the possible consequences and risks of vaccination?
- What factors have been considered by public authorities, including the Ministry of Health, in the selection of vaccines? Have preliminary studies been carried out?
According to the experts, refusal to vaccinate is not always related to fear or uncertainty. One of the main reasons is that people have re-contracted COVID-19. Some who are not ill are waiting for a new vaccine, while others are concerned about how the vaccine will perform for them or their relatives. Some fear side effects. Fear also leads to mistrust of vaccine quality.
Another factor is the general discontent with the health system. People fear excessive bureaucracy, long queues, doubts on the timeliness of receiving qualified medical care in case of post-vaccination complications, and fear that an ineffective vaccination process could endanger their lives and health.
To find a solution, it is necessary to have a system rather than emergency measures. Above all, the institutional distrust of the public towards health system/medicine must be eliminated. A public and open campaign should be launched for health workers and ordinary citizens regarding the information relevant to the vaccination.
In this regard the Nationwide movement “Yuksalish” recommends the following:
- Conduct a full sociological research to study necessity for vaccine and benefits of it to the population of the Republic of Uzbekistan. Vaccination is costly; therefore, State budget should be involved, and the information obtained should be considered in the procurement process and in the organization of the process. The importance of considering public opinion and mood in the process of dealing with arduous matters was repeatedly stressed by the President of Uzbekistan.
- Training experts for vaccinating, conducting training sessions for audiences that do not support vaccination or are morally unprepared. This enables health workers to develop skills in communicating with different categories of patients on immunization issues.
- Informal approach of communication with the patient in the process of delivering information, communicating in an understandable form. Volunteers from different age groups may be involved in achieving these goals. The use of modern multimedia technologies - infographics, video, etc. – is beneficial.
- Provide complete and reliable information from the Ministry of Health and other responsible agencies, for example, in their own sources (including social media) under the title «Truth about vaccines from COVID-19». It can be either producing a single vial of vaccine or delivering it to a specific individual. It is important to openly disclose information about any post-vaccine complications - facts, explanations and statistics - so that there is no room for fabrication, manipulation of public opinion.
- To eliminate myths regarding vaccines. When searching for information about vaccines it is important to have reliable scientific evidence at first, not «conspiracy theories».
- To demonstrate the vaccination process of prominent public and social figures, releasing feedback of active citizens. Positive feedback from vaccinated individuals might decrease/eliminate fear amongst population. For example, well-known bloggers and influential individuals vaccinated against COVID-19 can host «online diaries».
Moreover, the Nationwide movement “Yuksalish” is ready for:
- Organization of «public hearings» with the involvement of state representatives as well as national and foreign experts responsible for vaccination;
- Assistance in training volunteers in this area (in cooperation with the Association of Volunteers);
- To develop/provide series of presentations on vaccinations, including expert opinions, and infographics.
The press service of the Nationwide movement "Yuksalish"