Addressing Hesitancy Before a COVID-19 Vaccine

September 20, 2020

What the AstraZeneca vaccine research pause meant for physician-patient discussion on vaccine candidate safety.

Just a couple weeks ago, AstraZeneca and the University of Oxford paused its 30,000-plus patient phase 3 trial for its coronavirus 2019 (COVID-19) vaccine candidate due to a singular serious adverse event in a UK adult participant.

The trial has since resumed upon support from an independent committee of investigators, but concerns remained: how can vaccine confidence be instilled when COVID-19 trials are moving this quickly?

This instance, however, was supportive to the contrary, Dan Salmon, PhD, told Contagion®.

“The fact that the trial was halted showed the system is working,” Salmon said. “That’s why we do phase 3 trials. We were looking for things we don’t necessarily anticipate, although we also look for things we do anticipate.”

In the final segment of an interview with Contagion, Salmon, of the Department of International Health at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, explained how phase-progressive vaccine monitoring is a successful system in the US, and that fact coupled with large-population trials should serve as a greater assurance to both clinicians and patients.

However, he’s aware information from the level of experts to administrators and recipients is lacking.

“This is a system which is not well understood by the public or clinicians,” Salmon said.

He also discussed differences between vaccine hesitancy—a quickly growing issue in infectious disease—and the anti-vaccination theology. Lastly, he touched on why a parent in particular may lean toward vaccine hesitancy when the patient being discussed is their child.

It’s a matter of getting the right information out there.

“How a clinician speaks to a parent really, really matters,” Salmon said.