Global Efforts to Stop the Spread of COVID-19 Undermined by Vaccine Side Effect Concerns

20 May 2021 | Thursday | Analysis

Insights from Sermo’s COVID-19 Real Time Barometer Survey point toward disease becoming endemic and need for more effective patient education
Image Source : CGTN

Image Source : CGTN

As the rate of people receiving COVID-19 vaccinations has slowed, a new survey of physicians has revealed that doctors are working hard to combat vaccine hesitancy, even among those who have already received their first dose. More than 72% of physicians surveyed said that patients continue to voice concerns over vaccine side effects. Still, others have reported ongoing misinformation discouraging people from getting vaccines. In addition, close to 30% of physicians reported encountering patients who have skipped their second dose due to unpleasant side effects of the first dose, or concerns over side effects.

Sermo’s COVID-19 Real Time Barometer also showed over half of physicians report their patients have requested a specific vaccine with a clear preference for the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, as 78% of physicians indicated it’s the most requested and Moderna following at a distant second (7%). In Europe, almost 93% of physicians reported Pfizer-BioNTech was the most requested.

Physician Views on COVID-19 Vaccines

Fielded May 4 – May 8, 2021, over 3,000 physicians around the world provided feedback, of which close to 40% have treated between 10-100 patients with COVID. The survey found most physicians are currently not optimistic that COVID-19 will be eradicated with 75% of physicians believing COVID-19 vaccine boosters will be required annually, and of that, 35% believing their patients will likely see it as similar to the annual flu jab.

This may be attributed to the ongoing vaccine hesitancy physicians reported. In addition to worries over side effects, physicians reported that they have also heard ongoing concerns about safety and efficacy (60%) or erroneous or misinformation, such as you don’t need a vaccine if you had COVID-19 (32%), the vaccine modifies your DNA (29%) or the vaccine contains a microchip (15%). 

Physicians are countering the vaccination resistance mostly by discussing the risk benefit profile (80%) and the impact COVID-19 can have on others (61%), while 14% are connecting patients to community resources, such as peer engagement, but not finding success. “I am burned out with efforts to convince patients to get vaccinated,” said Charles LaTendresse MD, Family Medicine, U.S. “I try to get their reasoning for not getting the vaccine, but I can’t buy into what I hear.” he added.

“Our survey reveals that while sharing effective vaccinations and therapies worldwide is vital, it is not enough,” said Peter Kirk, CEO Sermo. “There is a tremendous urgency to counter misinformation and disinformation, and share which messages and approaches have been successful in convincing people to get vaccinated.”  

COVID-19 and Neurological / Mental Impact

Data is continuing to emerge on the long-term implications of COVID-19, including the development of neurological or mental disorders, a topic extensively discussed at the recent American Academy of Neurology virtual meeting this year. While almost half of physicians thought it’s too soon to tell, a significant number of physicians (30%) believe COVID-19 is a neurotropic disease that can cross the blood-brain barrier and cause direct damage to the brain, rather than a respiratory illness that can have neurological side effects. 

In addition, 30% reported the pandemic has helped patients with social anxiety disorder / social phobia, and depression / mood disorders (29%) that may arise from avoidance of social situations and other in-person encounters by allowing more time for self-reflection and personal development. 

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