Covid-19: Anti-vaccine sentiment lesser in poorer countries than wealthy

80 per cent of people in 10 countries in Asia, Africa and South America were willing to be inoculated, while in the United States and Russia there was more reluctance

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People living in low and middle-income countries are more eager to receive a Covid-19 vaccine compared to those in the United States, research shows.

The study, published in the journal Nature Medicine, surveyed people in 10 low to middle-income countries across Asia, Africa and South America, as well as Russia and the US, to compare vaccine sentiment.

It found 80 per cent of people surveyed in the low to middle-income countries were willing to be inoculated against the disease.

That compared to around two-thirds, or 65 per cent, in the US.

Low and middle-income countries should be proud of their collective spirit to achieve rates in favour of Covid vaccine that are higher than citizens of higher-income countries
Prof John Oxford

Only 30 per cent of those in upper-middle-income Russia said they would be prepared to get the shot, however.

Prof John Oxford, emeritus professor of virology at Queen Mary University of London and co-author of the textbook Human Virology, said low and middle-income countries should be “proud of their collective spirit to achieve rates [in favour of Covid vaccination that are] higher than citizens of higher-income countries”.

“In the latter group a complacency has crept in about infection accompanied by a vocal minority who oppose vaccine,” Prof Oxford said.

“But this minority have always been around, even 200 years ago as smallpox vaccines were introduced. But still, they were not able to prevent smallpox from being eradicated from the world.”

Experts have said vaccine hesitancy jeopardises efforts to reach herd immunity, as it means more people are vulnerable to catching the virus and passing it on to others.

It also raises the risk of the virus accruing new mutations, which could help it evade prior immunity from vaccination or infection since increased spread gives it more chance to replicate and change.

For that reason, experts have urged rich countries, which have hoarded the supply of vaccines against Covid-19, to share them with developing nations.

“Beyond the equity concerns, sharing vaccines is also the most efficient thing to do,” Ahmed Mushfiq Mobarak, an economist at Yale University in New Haven, Connecticut, and a co-author of the study, told Nature.

“You want to give vaccines to people who are eager to take them.”

Concerns about side effects and efficacy were among the top reasons given by respondents for refusing the vaccine in the low and middle-income countries, which included Nepal, Rwanda and Colombia.

A global YouGov survey conducted in May found people living in the UAE were among the most likely to take a vaccine to prevent Covid, with 87 per cent saying they were willing to receive the injection.

The number was second only to Britain, where 90 per cent of those polled were willing to be vaccinated.

Both countries have overseen successful inoculation campaigns, with each approving its first Covid-19 vaccine in December 2020.

The UAE has since fully vaccinated almost 69 per cent of its population, with 77.85 per cent having received the first dose.

Updated: July 27, 2021, 11:18 AM