Shocking 14% global vaccine hesitancy even with COVID-19 endemic threat, researchers note

October 22, 2020

New research by Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health suggests that the COVID-19 virus could become endemic i.e. common enough to produce recurring outbreaks in humans. This is largely affected by immunity to SARS-CoV-2, developed either through infection or a vaccine, which diminishes within a year. However, if immunity to SARS-CoV-2 was longer and more durable, the world might experience an initial elimination of COVID-19 followed by a resurgence only after a few years.

Serological studies indicate that most COVID-19 infections, regardless of severity, induce development of some SARS-CoV-2-specific antibodies. While a prior infection may provide partial immunity and reduce symptom severity,it is unclear whether those antibodies are sufficient to provide long-term “sterilising immunity” to prevent reinfection.

Another contributing factor is co-infection, as studies have shown that immune response to SARS-CoV-2 may be affected by whether or not someone is currently or was recently infected with another virus. Other studies confirm that simultaneous respiratory virus infections are not associated with increased disease severity.

A significant seasonal influenza outbreak, on the other hand, could strain hospitals already dealing with COVID-19.

Evidence also suggests that COVID-19 could be more transmissible during winter. Many common respiratory viruses reemerge seasonally during particular times of the year – the endemic coronaviruses (OC43, HKU1, NL63, 229E) all exhibit seasonality in temperate regions similar to influenza. Environmental conditions may therefore modulate SARS-CoV-2 transmissibility, perhaps sufficient enough to favor recurring seasonal transmission during winter in temperate regions, once immunity increases.

“Whether reinfections will be commonplace, how often they will occur, how contagious re-infected individuals will be, and whether the risk of severe clinical outcomes changes with subsequent infection remain to be understood,” said researchers Jeffrey Shaman and Marta Galanti. “[But] should reinfection prove commonplace, and barring a highly effective vaccine delivered to most of the world’s population, SARS-CoV-2 will likely settle into a pattern of endemicity.”

Meanwhile, other researchers have noticed global hesitancy to accept a COVID-19 vaccine, strongly related to a lack of trust in their respective government. In a June survey of 19 countries hard-hit by COVID-19, 72% of participants would likely take the vaccine, 14% would refuse,and the remaining 14% would hesitate to take it – this translates into tens of millions of potential vaccine avoiders.

Vaccine acceptance also varied with age (with higher acceptance among older people as compared to those aged under 22), income (higher among people earning more than 32 dollars per day, as compared to those earning under two dollars per day), or education level.

Curiously, people who had fallen sick with COVID-19, or whose relatives had fallen sick, were not more likely to respond positively.

“It will be tragic if we develop safe and effective vaccines and people refuse to take them. We need to develop a robust and sustained effort to address vaccine hesitancy and rebuild public confidence in the personal, family and community benefits of immunisations,” warned Scott C. Ratzan, a distinguished professor of City University of New York Graduate School of Public Health and Health Policy (CUNY-SPH).

“We need to increase vaccine confidence, and we need to improve the public’s understanding of how they can help control the spread of COVID-19 in their families and their communities,” added Ayman El-Mohandes, Dean of CUNY-SPH.

To date, more than 90 COVID-19 vaccines are in development, half of which are already in human trials.

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Category: Education, Features

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