Open dialogue with citizens on coronavirus vaccines
The survey conducted by Ipsos shows a continuous increase in the number of citizens who would be willing to get vaccinated
PODGORICA, 3 FEBRUARY 2021 – Although there has been a noticeable and continuous increase in the number of citizens who would be willing to get vaccinated against coronavirus, concerns regarding the speed at which new vaccines have been approved and their potential health risks, both immediate and longer-term, remain the two main reasons why the citizens of Montenegro are hesitant about immunization against COVID-19. These are the findings from the latest survey conducted by Ipsos in Montenegro in January on a nationally representative sample with the support of the British Embassy in Podgorica and UNICEF. The situation is similar in other countries in the world.
“Ipsos’s global research shows that trust in vaccines and the number of people who want to be vaccinated are increasing every day globally, just as is the case in Montenegro too. Global research also shows that the hesitation is not rooted in belief in conspiracy theories, but in the questions that people who lack information have and their worry that they could experience unwanted side-effects after being immunized by vaccines that have been developed relatively quickly".
According to UNICEF Representative to Montenegro Juan Santander, this data points to the need to have health experts leading a continuous, scientifically founded public dialogue about the coronavirus vaccines.
“It is key that health professionals explain, in a language understandable to everyone, all the details related to the process of production, distribution and storage of the new vaccines, as well as all the details related to the types of vaccines that are available and the differences between them, in particular in relation to their effectiveness and potential side-effects. It is also essential that we continuously receive from health experts honest and timely information about everything that is not known at the moment, as this is a novel disease and the vaccines themselves are new".
British Ambassador to Montenegro Karen Maddocks agrees with Mr Santander, emphasizing the important role of the health authorities, such as the Clinical Centre of Montenegro, the Institute of Public Health and the Ministry of Health.
“People can only make informed decisions about vaccines and about the best way to protect their health if they can be confident that they are receiving accurate information from their health authorities, based on the most up-to-date science. It’s important that the public health authorities are open to citizens’ concerns and are able to address them – this requires a mechanism for a continuous public dialogue, and can help build the level of trust needed between citizen and state to tackle a challenge like this pandemic. This makes it less likely that people will turn to less reputable sources of information".
Every country has a regulatory body that oversees the safety and efficacy of vaccines before approving their widespread use. At the global level, it is the World Health Organization that coordinates the work of a number of independent technical bodies that review the safety of vaccines before and after their introduction. The vaccines approved by the WHO are subjected to rigorous tests and clinical trials to prove that they are safe and effective in controlling the disease. As for coronavirus, on 31 December 2020 the WHO put the vaccine produced by Pfizer/BioNTech on the list of vaccines approved for emergency use, making it the first vaccine since the beginning of the coronavirus outbreak (one year ago) to receive WHO approval.
Once a vaccine has received the necessary approval, it is crucial that it is made available in a timely and equitable manner to those who need it most. That is the reason behind COVAX, a global initiative that aims to provide equal access to coronavirus vaccines in all countries, regardless of their income levels. Being the largest distributor of vaccines globally, UNICEF is, within COVAX, being engaged to ensure the rapid and safe distribution of the WHO-approved vaccines against coronavirus worldwide.