The Current

A COVID-19 vaccine could ease immunization hesitancy, or be hindered by the same mistrust: expert

Immunization expert Dr. Natasha Crowcroft discusses how an eventual vaccine for COVID-19 could sway those normally opposed to inoculations.

Pandemic likely to push people toward being more pro-vaccine: Natasha Crowcroft

A child receives a measles shot in this file photo from 2019. The COVID-19 crisis could sway some people who are normally wary of vaccines in favour of getting immunized. (The Canadian Press)

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When a COVID-19 vaccine is eventually formulated, it could find support among people who are normally hesitant about immunization, says professor of epidemiology Dr. Natasha Crowcroft.

But she warned that clear communication would be needed to ensure trust.

"The risk communication around this is going to be absolutely essential," said Crowcroft, director of the Centre for Vaccine-Preventable Diseases at the Dalla Lana School of Public Health at the University of Toronto. 

"If anything goes wrong — or if something doesn't go wrong, but just rumours spread around a new vaccine — we'll be in trouble," she told The Current's Matt Galloway.

"We know this with [any] new vaccine being rolled out. You don't actually have to have a problem happen; you just have to have people think there might be one for there to be a huge issue." 

Multiple vaccines are being tested around the world, with some already in human trials due to the urgency of ending the COVID-19 pandemic. 

WATCH | A subject in a COVID-19 vaccine trial explains why he volunteered:

Sean Doyle is one of 17 subjects in COVID-19 vaccine trial at Emory University, Georgia. 1:18

Crowcroft said with the range of approaches being tested, she's confident a successful vaccine will be found — if not several.

She expects uptake will be high due to fear of the disease and that a vaccine is "the only reliable exit from our [physical distancing] situation."

Under normal circumstances, "the vast majority of people are pro-vaccine and they'll get their kids vaccinated and they'll listen to medical advice," she said.

With a range of approaches being tested, Dr. Natasha Crowcroft is confident that a successful vaccine will be found — if not several. (Claude Martel)

There will be some people who harbour concerns about vaccines — but COVID-19 might change that, she told Galloway.

"The enormity of this pandemic is such that I think it really is pushing that vast majority of people in the direction of being more pro-vaccine, which has got to be a good thing."


Written by Padraig Moran. Produced by Sarah Joyce Battersby.

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