Background of the Study
The world is in standstill as it tries to cope with the new ‘normal’ of mandatory masks, social distancing, and home quarantine. The surge of the novel coronavirus or SARS-CoV-2 has pushed countries to take desperate measures on how to control this pandemic. Amidst the panic and chaos, researchers all over the world have devoted all their resources to solve this pandemic and are now in a race to develop a new vaccine. The virus currently plaguing the world with coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19), goes by the official name of severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus-2 or SARS-CoV-2 (WHO, 2020).
Despite the safety measures and public advisories put in place, the infection rate and death toll caused by COVID-19 continues to increase daily (Roser et al., 2020). It not only threatens the public health of communities, but the global economy as well (Nicola et al., 2020). There is currently no approved treatment for COVID-19 and the only closest solution to end this pandemic is the development of a new vaccine. This is an intensive multi-step process where vaccines or any other medications usually take years to be created and tested before they can be released to the market (Singh & Mehta, 2016). However, some speculate that the world could start getting immunizations by the end of this year or by early 2021. According to the World Health Organization as of September 9, 2020, out of the 35 current vaccine candidates in clinical evaluation, seven of them have now entered the Phase 3 of clinical trials. As much of a relief it may be, there are fears and doubts in some people regarding its safety and efficacy, due to the rush and possible lack of research to fully establish its clinical data (CNN, 2020).
Once a vaccine is released, its overall impact will not be solely based on the actual clinical effect of the shot, but also on the public’s perception and willingness of taking it. In order for a vaccine to do its job of protecting everyone, enough people should get it to achieve “herd immunity” (Randolph & Barreiro, 2020). Recent polls conducted in the United States and Europe show that around 60 – 70% of participants are willing to get immunized if a COVID-19 vaccine is released (Neumann-Böhme et al., 2020, Reiter et al., 2020). A recent study has found that as we eagerly anticipate a vaccine for Covid-19, a decrease in confidence of vaccine safety and effectiveness continues to be a growing issue in many parts of the world. (Ghosh, 2020).There have been no studies about COVID-19 vaccine hesitancy in the Philippines, but the measles outbreak in 2019 is attributed to low confidence rate in immunizations after the Dengvaxia controversy (DOH, 2019). Another casualty attributed to vaccine hesitancy in the Philippines is the poliovirus outbreak, also in 2019, which was supposedly declared as a globally eradicated disease in 2015 (Ravelo, 2019). This may pose a similar problem when a vaccine for COVID-19 is made available in the country.
Therefore, this study aims to determine the general public’s overall acceptance for the anticipated COVID-19 vaccine in the Philippines. As pharmacists, we have a responsibility in promoting health by advocating for mass vaccination. In order to do so, we need to understand and recognize the doubts and concerns of the public towards COVID-19 vaccine safety. This will then help us to develop strategies in ensuring and preparing effective implementation of the anticipated COVID-19 vaccine. This will be of great value to our government in promoting a solution to our pandemic, and to our community as it plays a vital role in the health development of every individual by helping us establish herd immunity from COVID-19. The findings of this study will also benefit us as pharmacists and other health care providers, in the development of interventions that can be used in further advocating vaccine acceptability.
The main purpose of the study is to evaluate the public’s perception and acceptance of the anticipated COVID-19 vaccine through the following objectives:
- To identify the factors associated with COVID-19 vaccine acceptance and hesitancy.
- To determine the percentage of people willing to get the COVID-19 vaccine in its first few months of release.
- To identify the role of pharmacists in advocating future COVID-19 vaccine.
The study is centered around the theoretical framework of Vaccine Hesitancy (VH) as described in the research of Peretti-Watel et al. (2015). VH is defined as a decision-making process which is dependent on the person’s commitment to healthism and risk culture, as well as confidence in the health authorities and mainstream medicine. The theory fits the objective of this study well, as it aims to determine the factors affecting the public’s willingness in getting the anticipated vaccine against the current COVID-19 pandemic. With this data, pharmacists can formulate appropriate strategies to positively influence the public’s perception of the COVID-19 vaccine and motivate them to get immunized once the vaccine is released.
Vaccine hesitancy is considered as an obstacle and an exacerbated problem in achieving much-needed coverage and herd immunity, especially in the midst of the current pandemic. Furthermore, the spread of misinformation among the public heightens anxiety regarding the accelerated pace of vaccine development and greatly affects the acceptance of COVID-19 vaccine. This necessitates certain strategies or interventions in enhancing acceptance, trust, and confidence towards the safety and efficacy of COVID-19 vaccine, primarily with the help of pharmacists.
The main independent variable in the study is the public/population in the Philippines, with consideration to their gender, age, and previous COVID-19 exposure or infection. The subjects will then undergo an online survey through the use of Google Forms to assess their level of acceptance of the anticipated COVID-19 vaccine. Analysis of the survey will allow the researchers to obtain the dependent variables or outcomes, specifically the percentage of people willing to get the vaccine, factors affecting vaccine acceptability and hesitancy, and strategies for advocating mass vaccination as part of pharmacists’ role during the pandemic.
Researchers all over the world are in a race to develop a vaccine against the COVID-19 pandemic. This represents a promising solution to the current global crisis and the acceptance of this anticipated vaccine has a huge impact on the world’s recovery as a whole. The study aims to determine the public insight on the anticipated COVID-19 vaccine and recognize doubts in its supposed safety and efficacy. It shall be beneficial in formulating strategies and defining the pharmacists’ role in reducing vaccine hesitancy.