With Omicron cases rising, vaccine hesitancy in India now lowest ever
- ● The hesitant population has declined from 11.5 crores to 6.96 crore in the last 30 days
- ● Almost 82 crore adults have gotten their first dose already and another 2 crores will get it soon
- ● Another 3 crore citizens may take it in the coming months as more vaccines come out and additional vaccine efficacy-variant data emerges
- ● 6.96 crore of the 94 crore total adults are currently hesitant for several reasons and should be the primary outreach target for Government awareness and sensitisation programs
- ● Har Ghar Dastak or Door to Door Campaigns on the ground must focus on information sharing and not coerce or force people to take the vaccine
December 13, 2021, New Delhi: India now has over 30 cases of Omicron and hundreds of COVID positive samples are being genome tested across labs in India for the Omicron variant. The variant, which has scientists and epidemiologists around the world raising red flags was categorised as a “variant of concern” by the World Health Organisation earlier this month. Within a couple of weeks, Omicron has been detected in over 55 countries around the world with all major nations included.
The latest data suggests that the variant has between 30-50 mutations and likely a 3X-5X transmission advantage over the base or alpha variant of COVID. The Union Health Ministry has alerted all states and Union territories to be alert and to increase testing and monitoring with special guidelines being implemented for screening and testing of international passengers. Most experts now believe that a 3rd booster dose may be necessary after the first two doses for protection against Omicron while the severity of the symptoms caused by the new variant is still being studied. The WHO has also asked countries to take preventative measures like hand hygiene, physical distancing, improving indoor ventilation, wearing well-fitted masks and getting vaccinated.
With most scientists around the world are now having consensus that 3 doses of COVID vaccine will be needed for sufficient protection against Omicron, the key for India is to ensure that all citizens willing to take the vaccine, get their first and second dose so they can qualify for the 3rd or booster dose. India has now inoculated almost 82 crore citizens with a single jab while over 50 crore citizens have received both jabs, achieving a milestone of fully vaccinating over 53% of the eligible population. States, on the other hand, are encouraging residents to get inoculated, conducting awareness drives in both urban and rural areas, and even mandating vaccination in some places vis-a-vis addressing concerns about the COVID vaccines.
The LocalCircles vaccine hesitancy survey conducted in early-November had estimated approximately 11.59 crore citizen to be hesitant. To understand if anything has changed in the last 30 days especially after Omicron has been found in over 55 nations including India, LocalCircles conducted another survey to collect responses from unvaccinated citizens to understand their plans about taking the COVID-19 vaccine and to understand the level of hesitancy that exists. The survey received 8,691 responses from citizens residing in 321 districts of India. 61% respondents were men while 39% respondents were women. 40% respondents were from tier 1, 31% from tier 2 and 29% respondents were from tier 3, 4 and rural districts.
Of the 12 crore adults who haven’t taken the COVID vaccine yet, 17% willing to do so soon while another 25% may take it down the road
Taking cognisance of the fact that a subset of the adult population hasn’t taken a single COVID-19 dose of the vaccine, the survey sought to understand from the unvaccinated citizens about their plans and their reasons for not taking the vaccine so far. The responses suggest that 17% of citizens plan on soon taking their first dose of vaccine. There were, however, 25% of citizens who do not plan to take their vaccine yet as they are not convinced about whether the currently available vaccine provides enough protection from the latest variant Omicron and future variants. They may take the vaccine if more data become available or if other vaccines become available. Breaking down the poll, 25% of citizens do not plan to take the vaccine at all. Meanwhile, 16% are hesitant to take the vaccine yet due to uncertainty regarding side effects, whereas another 17% of citizens believe they are unable to take the vaccine due to their prevailing medical condition. In all 61% of the unvaccinated adults can be classified as those hesitant to take the COVID vaccine. This question in the survey received 8,691 responses.
With Omicron cases rising in India, 25% of the vaccine hesitant now willing to take the jab
LocalCircles’ survey conducted in early October indicated that 7.04 crores citizens were hesitant to take the vaccine. This percentage increased to 11.59 crore in the similar survey in early November, and this latest one in December shows that only 6.96 crore citizens are now hesitant to take the COVID vaccine. Data analysis suggests that 38% of the citizens who were hesitant to get vaccinated are now willing to take the jab with Omicron cases rising in India.
6.96 crore Indians are currently estimated to be hesitant to take the COVID vaccine
If it is assumed that India has 94 crore adult population and 82 crores have received their 1st dose of COVID vaccine, it leaves us with 12 crore adults still not vaccinated. If the percentages of different categories are applied to this 12 crores population, it indicates that 2.04 crore citizens may take the vaccine as soon as they get the opportunity. Another 3 crore citizens are awaiting more information on vaccines, variants, the efficacy of existing vaccines like Covishield and Covaxin against Omicron and some are even awaiting the arrival of more vaccines. Of the hesitant lot of people, 1.92 crore citizens are hesitant because of side effects that worry them, and another 3 crore citizens do not plant to take the vaccine at all. Then there are the 2.04 crore citizens who believe that they cannot take the vaccine due to a medical condition they currently have. While these are an approximation based on the application of survey findings to the unvaccinated population, it does provide a broad idea of how the hesitant pie might be looking like.
In summary, the survey of the unvaccinated population shows that 17% are willing to take the vaccine soon and 25% may take it if they get convinced about the efficacy against Omicron or if more vaccines become available. If the survey findings are applied to the unvaccinated population of 12 crores, it indicates that 2.04 crore citizens may take the vaccine in the near future and 3 crore citizens may take it once more data and vaccines become available. On an aggregate basis, it is estimated that 6.96 crore Indian citizens are currently not inclined to take the vaccine. It is this population that must be the target of all vaccine awareness, sensitisation and information drives. India should design a campaign where all unvaccinated are outreached and those willing are asked to respond via SMS followed by a visit from a healthcare worker to their doorstep to vaccinate them.This will maximise results and ensure India can soon move to vaccinating those that are vulnerable, healthcare workers and senior citizens with a 3rd or booster dose.
The LocalCircles vaccine hesitancy survey has been tracking hesitancy for the last 12 months when hesitancy was near 60% when the vaccination drive just started to now it coming down to almost 7% marking how India has successfully executed world’s largest vaccination drive in less than 12 months.
The survey received 8,691 responses from citizens residing in 321 districts of India. 61% respondents were men while 39% respondents were women. 40% respondents were from tier 1, 31% from tier 2 and 29% respondents were from tier 3, 4 and rural districts. The survey was conducted via LocalCircles platform and all participants were validated citizens who had to be registered with LocalCircles to participate in this survey.